LET’S FREE UP OUR VERSE by Wallace McRae

wallyjbl_091607_Wally_0040lo

LET’S FREE UP OUR VERSE
by Wallace McRae

Critics claim we write doggerel. To them that’s a curse
As we whittle our ditties in tired meter and
——————————————-……rhyme
Rhyming’s old fashioned—we’re stuck in the past.
Gotta strike for new heights to make our craft
——————————————-……survive

Besides.

How many rhymes can you unearth for “horse”?
We must find fresh pathways—carve out a new
——————————————-……route
Forego out worn metaphors—retire tired cliches
As unnumb cerebrums will uncover fresh
——————————————-……methods

Of retelling the tales of our untrampled West
Like Ves, Paul, and Linda we’ll leave all the
——————————————-……others
In the dust of the drags in their quest of the muse
We’ll ride at the point and no longer
——————————————-……employ

Those sound-alike words at the end of the line.
Our poems will sparkle, shimmer and
——————————————-……glitter
Ah! The critics will love us. We’ll be the rage
Academics will praise us as we mount a new
——————————————-……campaign

To convert the whole West to the joys of free verse
Oh, some will resist. They’ll grumble and
——————————————-……swear
As they cling to tradition, bog down in the mire,
Get rimrocked, rough locked, or caught in the
——————————————-……Gallagher electric fence.

But it’s “Root hog or die,” as the old-timers said
As reps with credentials sort the quick from
——————————————-……those who gather celestial ranges
——————————————- and are now gone but not forgotten.
Yes! Convert! You wranglers who once tangled with rhyme
‘Cause rhyming ain’t worth a tin Roosevelt
——————————————-……social program.

© Wallace McRae, used with permission

In a recent conversation with Wallace McRae, he mentioned that he thought this poem—which takes on free verse—was one of his best poems, and he gave us permission to share it.

Wally McRae is a third-generation rancher, with a 30,000 acre cow-calf ranch in Forsyth, Montana. He was the first cowboy poet to be awarded the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a recipient of the Montana Governor’s Award for the Arts, and has served on the National Council of the Arts.

He’s probably best known for his own least-favorite poem, “Reincarnation.”

Wally McRae has a poetry collection, “Cowboy Curmudgeon and other poems, and a collection of stories, Stick Horses and Other Stories of Ranch Life. This poem, “Let’s Free Up Our Verse,” appears in The Anthology; Celebrating 30 Years of Wrangling Words from the Western Folklife Center, published in 2014 in celebration of the 30th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Find more about Wally McRae at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photograph of Wally McRae is by popular photojournalist Jessica Brandi Lifland (Instagram). It is from her Cowboy Poetry Project with subjects to date who also include Waddie Mitchell, Amy Steiger and Gail Steiger, Rodney Nelson, DW Groethe, Elizabeth Ebert, Henry Real Bird, Doris Daley, Bimbo Cheney, and others.

Jessica Lifland is one of the official photographers for the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Find her gathering photos at her photo blog.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photograph with this post, but any other uses require permission.)

OUTRIDERS AT THE END OF THE TRAIL by Wallace McRae

wallyjbl_091707_Wally_0074lophoto of Wallace McRae © 2015, Jessica Lifland, request permission for any use

OUTRIDERS AT THE END OF THE TRAIL
by Wallace McRae

They contemplate their town-boot toes
As they stand around and mill.
They check the south horizon,
‘Cross the tracks above the hill.

Their suitcoats hint of mothballs,
Their Levis are clean and creased.
They speak of grass or cattle
But never the deceased.

Some have shook the Gov’ner’s hand,
And one’s been in the pen.
Crooked legs define the bronc hands,
Cropped-off thumbs the dally men.

Their spring-toothed necks are throttled up
In silky black wild rags.
Their faces scored like flower-stamps
On well-worn saddle bags.

They’ve come early to the funeral home,
Yet don’t want to go inside.
There’s no comfort in a breathless room
Or words of “eventide.”

They somehow share a secret bond
As each one recollects:
Together. Separate. Silently.
Each pays his last respects.

You’ll hear no keening to the vaulted skies,
But the good hands know when a good hand dies.

© Wallace McRae
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission

Wally McRae is a third-generation rancher, with a 30,000 acre cow-calf ranch in Forsyth, Montana. He was the first cowboy poet to be awarded the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a recipient of the Montana Governor’s Award for the Arts, and has served on the National Council of the Arts.

He’s probably best known for his own least-favorite poem, “Reincarnation.”

In his book, “Cowboy Curmudgeon and other poems,” Wally McRae notes this poem is “Dedicated to the memory of my uncle Evan D. McRae.”

This photograph of Wally McRae is by popular photojournalist Jessica Lifland (http://jessicalifland.smugmug.comInstagram) as a part of her Cowboy Poetry Project. Her subjects to date include Waddie Mitchell, Amy and Gail Steiger , Rodney Nelson, DW Groethe, Elizabeth Ebert, Henry Real Bird, Doris Daley, Bimbo Cheney, and others.

Jessica Lifland is one of the official photographers for the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Find her gathering photos at her photo blog.

 

OUTRIDERS AT THE END OF THE TRAIL by Wallace McRae

wallyjlwatermarkphoto by Jessica Brandi Lifland

OUTRIDERS AT THE END OF THE TRAIL
by Wallace McRae

They contemplate their town-boot toes
As they stand around and mill.
They check the south horizon,
‘Cross the tracks above the hill.

Their suitcoats hint of mothballs,
Their Levis are clean and creased.
They speak of grass or cattle
But never the deceased.

Some have shook the Gov’ner’s hand,
And one’s been in the pen.
Crooked legs define the bronc hands,
Cropped-off thumbs the dally men.

Their spring-toothed necks are throttled up
In silky black wild rags.
Their faces scored like flower-stamps
On well-worn saddle bags.

They’ve come early to the funeral home,
Yet don’t want to go inside.
There’s no comfort in a breathless room
Or words of “eventide.”

They somehow share a secret bond
As each one recollects:
Together. Separate. Silently.
Each pays his last respects.

You’ll hear no keening to the vaulted skies,
But the good hands know when a good hand dies.

© Wallace McRae, used with permission
Wally McRae is a third-generation rancher, with a 30,000 acre cow-calf ranch in Forsyth, Montana.He was the first cowboy poet to be awarded the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

In his book, Cowboy Curmudgeon and other poems, Wally McRae notes this poem is “Dedicated to the memory of my uncle Evan D. McRae.”

Texas Hill Country poet and writer Linda Kirkpatrick suggested this poem. She comments, “When I began writing cowboy poetry I studied the classics, paying close attention to the subject matter, the rhyme and the meter. I hope that beginning writers study this poem. It should be read and pondered. It is just beautifully written.”

This outstanding photograph of Wally McRae is by photojournalist Jessica Brandi Lifland, used with permission, from her “Cowboy Poets” project. See more of her photos of Wally McRae here.

Others photographed for her “Cowboy Poets” project include Amy and Gail Steiger, Rodney Nelson, Henry Real Bird, Jack Walther, Bimbo Cheney, Waddie Mitchell, Doris Daley, Jerry Brooks, Elizabeth Ebert, D.W. Groethe, and Bill Lowman. Find the photographs here.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photograph with this post, but any other use requires permission.)