Featured at the Bar-D Ranch

Dee Strickland Johnson 
"Buckshot Dot"

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On each page here at the BAR-D, we remind visitors that "Poets retain copyright to their work; obtain a poet's permission before using a poem in any form."  See our feature about Copyright and Permissions for additional information.

We receive many requests from reciters and others who want to use poems, and we are always glad to put them in touch with poets.

However, it's still common to hear a poem recited or see a poem printed without attribution.

Recently Honored Guest Yvonne Hollenbeck wrote "My husband attended a funeral and in the folder was printed "A Cowboy's Prayer" by Badger Clark.  However, it failed to mention Clark or who wrote it. I became aware of another similar instance, when my friend Jim Thompson told me about a folder from a funeral with 'a beautiful poem' in it. He said he didn't know who wrote it, and that probably no one knew because it didn't mention an author. As soon as I heard him recite the poem, I told him to turn to page 73 of my Blossoms Beneath the Snow book and he'd find out. It was written by my grandmother!"

On the other hand, most performers are careful to give credit to original authors.  For example, Yvonne also said "Michael Martin Murphey used some of my Christmas poetry in his Cowboy Christmas Ball tour, and featured "
All American Christmas" poem every night. I have had lots of people write, e-mail, call, etc., from North Platte, Nebraska to Houston, Texas, telling me that they heard it and how Michael told each audience who wrote it as well as very nice comments about my poetry. Michael had asked me ahead of time and even offered to pay me for the use of it. This is an example of fine professional standards."

All of that reminded us of an excellent piece, "A Matter of Ethics," that Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot") includes in her books The First Roundup and Cowman's Wife. With her permission, we've posted it here.  

Let's all work together to make sure that poets get credit for their work.

A Matter of Ethics

When I first began to recite poetry at Cowboy gatherings, I was surprised when someone would occasionally ask, "Who wrote that poem?"  To me it seemed perfectly obvious that if a person had recited a poem without acknowledgement, the poem was original.  I was later to learn, however, that this is not necessarily true.  It should be.  By neglecting acknowledgment, a presenter leaves the impression that a piece is his/her own.  This is, to me, right up there with cattle rustlin' -- maybe even with horse theft, 'fer cryin' out loud!  I have always believed cowboys to be gentlemen, and to those who recite poems I say:

1) Secure permission from the author before reciting a poem.

2) Always give the author's name immediately before presenting the piece.

3) When an artist is engaged for pay, doing another poet's copyrighted work without permission is clearly illegal. But legality is not the question. It's a matter of ethics.

Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot") included in her books The First Roundup and Cowman's Wife and reprinted with her kind permission.  Visit her web site for more about her and her work







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