14th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, Kanab, Utah, August
Find other August-September gathering reports here.
Back to Events page . . .
Back on home . . .
14th Annual National Cowboy Poetry RodeoKanab, Utah
story and photos where noted by Susan Parker
photo of Susan Parker by
(information about the tribute to Colen Sweeten from CowboyPoetry.com)
additional photos by Stella and Jim Cathey
additional photos by
; see her gallery of western performers and others here.
photo of Jeri Dobrowski by Jen Dobrowski
See our feature on the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo here
14th Annual National Cowboy Poetry
Rodeo, Kanab, Utah
Surrounded by cliffs that appear to have been hand-brushed from a painter’s palate in shades of blood-orange red, gun-metal gray and sandy beige, Kanab, Utah was once again the home of the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo. In its 14th year, the Rodeo partnered with the Western Legends Roundup in this bustling tourist destination.
Decked out in cowboy hats, boots and kerchiefs, Italians, Germans, and other Europeans on vacation strolled the streets alongside American tourists and locals. Riding horseback in their minds, all were ready to re-live the days of the Old West, completed by the presence of actors from western movies, including Clint Walker, James Drury, Ed Faulkner and even Paul Petersen. Yep! Petersen had a few western roles after his “Donna Reed” days. Echoes of sharp-shooter’s pistols cracked the still summer air as re-enactors added flavor throughout the weekend. The fragrance of beef on the bar-b-que and garlic bread wafted in the air.
photo by Stella Cathey
photo by Stella Cathey
Thursday afternoon Rod Miller kicked off the Rodeo with his workshop on the principles of good recitation titled, “Get Up On Your Hind Legs and Howl.” With a title like that how could you not attend? Just the visual of the quiet and somewhat shy Rod Miller howling on hind legs brings a chuckle to my gut.
I’ve been to many workshops on writing poetry but don’t recall one exclusively on recitation. Whatever I’ve learned about reciting has come from carefully observing the pros such as Joel Nelson, Randy Rieman, Virginia Bennett, and Jerry Brooks. And I learned from American Idol to “Always bring your A-game.” So I was eager for something in print, to have someone knowledgeable share with me his tips on becoming the best reciter possible.
First and foremost, to be a good reciter, according to Rod, you need to do one thing: practice; practice; practice. You need to etch the poem into your brain cells until it becomes second nature. But even then, sometimes you will blank out and forget a word or perhaps the entire poem. Everyone does at one time or another. (Trust me: that is true!)
The sounds of the words are paramount. It is what separates a poem from prose, what gives it the “music.” You need to know the definition as well as the sentiment of the words. Learn the purpose of the poem (they all have one), and understand the story in the poem as well as the “back story.”
Know how the words are correctly pronounced, especially “regional words.” For example, in some areas of Texas it is “chaps” with a hard ch, whereas in other parts it is “chaps” with a soft ch.
Use a Western dictionary such as Blevins Old West Dictionary that gives the meanings as well as the derivations of the words. In your search you might learn a new word.
As to performing, find your own style. You can’t be another Nelson, Rieman, Bennett, Brooks, Zarzyski…well, you get the picture. The audience wants to get to know you.
If you are reciting another person’s work, always get permission from the poet if he/she is still alive. If the poet has passed on, it would be nice to get it from the family or heirs. Definitely give the poet credit on stage. If it was someone reciting your work you would certainly want the audience to know you wrote it. (Recording or reprinting another person’s work has its own set of rules relating to copyrights. There are numerous articles at CowboyPoetry.com that address this issue, but basically you need to get permission from whoever owns the copyrights.)
When reciting, vary the pace and cadence based on emotional content or action in the poem, not randomly. Also, use dialects and accents sparingly, making sure the meaning is clear to the audience.
Don’t emphasize rhyme and meter; let them reveal themselves. Otherwise it sounds sing-songy and monotonous.
Meet the expectations of
the audience when it comes to material, avoiding getting into a rut. Mix
favorites with new material.
These are just a few of
Rod’s "tips” that he revealed. Perhaps you’ll be able to catch his entire
workshop on this subject at another time. [Ed. note: Find Rod Miller's
essay based on the workshop presentation
Friday’s morning sun was just creeping over the treetops and peeking into the hayloft of the barn-turned-theater when the Rodeo Riders got a chance to put all they’d learned to work. In both the Poet and Reciter categories I was thrilled to see my friends Susie Knight, Almeda Bradshaw, and Keith Ward had come to ride.
photo by Susan Parker
photo by Susan Parker
It was just as thrilling to listen to poets and reciters I’ve never heard before such as Dick Warwick, Marleen Bussma, Bj Smith, Hal Hamblin, Jim Cathey, Donna Hatton, Paul Bliss and JV Brummels, to name a few.
There were a great number of entries in each of the categories. Per the rules, the top half scorers in each category make the cut to present their work to the audience on Saturday. It was hot and humid in the barn but all riders hunkered down, set their grip, and rode hard ‘til the end.
12 states and 3 countries, were
Almeda Terry Bradshaw,
Francine Roark Robison,
Loren Wendt, and
rom 12 states and 3 countries, were Duke Aiken, Paul Bliss, Almeda Terry Bradshaw, J.V. Brummels, Marlene Bussma, Jim Cathey, Jan Corey, J.B. Gans, Del Gustafson, Hal Hamblin, Donna Hatton, Tom Hatton, Dennis Hunter, Tim Jenne, Mark Kerr, Susie Knight, Terry Nash, David Nordquist, Laurali Noteman, Verlin Pitt, Francine Roark Robison, Orvil Sears, B.J. Smith, Keith Ward, Dick Warwick,
Loren Wendt, and C.R. Wood.
The competition was tough, tough, tough. I heard poetry that could stand up to the best of the best. Those lucky enough to take home a buckle were Poet/Serious, Paul Bliss; Poet/Humorous, Dick Warwick; Reciter/Serious, Dick Warwick; and Reciter/Humorous, Orvil Sears. Winners of trophies in the Silver Buckle division (previous winners and those who chose to compete with them) were: Poet/Serious, Dick Warwick; Poet/Humorous, Bj Smith; Reciter/Serious, C.R. Wood; and Reciter/Humorous, Keith Ward.