Submission Guidelines

letterfromhome

 

Send one poem to: poems@cowboypoetry.com:

•     Include your poem’s title in the subject line.
•     Use plain email, no attachments
•     Do not type in all CAPS
•     Include your name with your poem

If your poem is accepted, we will reply within four weeks. After that time you are welcome to submit another poem.

Our focus is on stories about the life of rural communities and today’s real working West. We look for poems and lyrics that say something original about cowboying, ranching, or rural life, well-written poems and lyrics with strong, developed stories with themes that are uniquely Western.

We encourage poems and lyrics inspired by personal experiences.

We look for works that go beyond platitudes, seeking those that say something new, or say something in a new way about today’s real working West.

We are not looking for idealized “Old West” poems or lyrics. We do consider works with factual historical themes that relate to cowboying, ranching, or rural life.

We are not looking for poems or lyrics inspired by a “Hollywood” view of the West, worn jokes turned into poems or songs, or “bathroom humor.” We do not accept blatantly political, patriotic, religious or romantic poems or lyrics that are not original, well-developed stories about today’s working West. Our focus does not include Christian cowboy poetry.

Works should be suitable for our wide audience, which includes young readers. Works that have been published elsewhere previously are welcome.

Occasionally, poems outside of those guidelines are posted, at the invitation of the editor. Such works are usually poems of merit by poets with a body of work at CowboyPoetry.com.

All are welcome to submit poetry and lyrics. We respond to all submissions; we do not have the resources to offer critiques. Our editorial decisions are final.

Accepted poems and lyrics are posted.

We look forward to reading your work. We get many submissions, and we strive to give each one the proper attention.

If your poem is accepted, we will reply within four weeks. After that time you are welcome to submit another poem.

 

 

I’D LIKE TO BE IN TEXAS (WHEN WE ROUND UP COWS NEXT SPRING) by Yvonne Hollenbeck

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I’D LIKE TO BE IN TEXAS (WHEN WE ROUND UP COWS NEXT SPRING)
by Yvonne Hollenbeck

There’s been a lot of poems and songs
about those cattle drives,
but I’ve never heard a poem or song
about those cowmen’s wives.

Did you ever stop and wonder
about how those guys get fed?
Who boils that brew and cooks the stew
and bakes up all that bread?

Well, I know who and so do you,
so I wrote this little thing
bout why I’d like to be in Texas
when we round up cows next spring.

IT GOES LIKE THIS:

In a kitchen in an old ranch house on a cold and autumn day,
sat a bunch of fellers telling yarns about the cowboy way.

They tell of places they have been and country they have seen.
One prefers the Badlands where the grass is never green,

while others tell their windy tales of Sandhills, lush and wet,
as they eat their eggs and pancakes ‘cause it soon is time to get

outside and saddle up their mounts and ready for the ride,
for the roundup is about to start. I too must get outside

and load up all the food and drink and pack it in my truck,
then find a place along the trail where they can stop for chuck.

I’m soon unloading food supplies…it’s not an easy deal
to feed those men while on the trail and plan for every meal.

And when the noon meal’s over, the work is never through;
you have to clean and pack and move the meal site all anew.

They’ll stop the drive at sundown and again they have to eat,
and then I start all over and I’m really getting beat!

They set up camp and bed ‘em tight, some men stay with the cattle;
I head on home to pack more food, for eating’s half the battle.

And while the men are fast asleep, I prepare tomorrow’s menu;
just two more days of rounding up and then this job will be through.

So when you hear those poems and songs about those cattle drives,
just think about the “unsung” ones…bout the cowman’s wives.

With that I guess I’ll bid “good-bye” and say just one more thing:
I’d sure like to be in Texas when we round up cows next spring!

© 2008, revised, Yvonne Hollenbeck
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Popular cowboy poet and champion quilter Yvonne Hollenbeck has her own ideas about wanting to be in Texas, an answer to the traditional “I’d Like to Be in Texas,” which was posted Monday.

Yvonne Hollenbeck delights audiences across the West. Her latest book and CD are Rhyming the Range. Both collect her original poems. The book includes the most equested poems from her two out-of-print books and all of her newest poetry. Rumor is that she has a new collection in the works.

Yvonne is a part of the must-see film, Everything in the Song is True, Doug Morrione’s award-winning feature-length documentary “of four iconic western characters”: Gary McMahan, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Brice Chapman, and Greg Nourse.  Now is a great time to watch it at Amazon.

Find more about Yvonne Hollenbeck and her complete schedule, which includes quilting events, at yvonnehollenbeck.com.

Find more of Yvonne Hollenbeck’s poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photo of twin bull calves was taken in 2016 at the Hollenbeck’s South Dakota ranch, where Yvonne and her champion calf-roper husband Glen raise cattle and quarter horses. Read a recent article about Glen, “Glen Hollenbeck: Still riding for the G2 Brand,” by Hannah Johlman.

(Request permission to share this poem or photo.)

TWO GOOD FRIENDS by Ken Cook

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© Jessica Hedges

TWO GOOD FRIENDS
by Ken Cook

I’ll tell this one straightforward
and try not to leave undone,
the building of a friendship
I watched while being spun.

The scene, a grassy horse trap
on a crisp October day
after men had saddled up
and rode out on their way.

I spied a cowboy on a mission,
packin’ a halter big as he was.
Appeared to me, from his pint size,
his plan had tall size flaws.

How he’d catch a horse and get on
put my mind in a fizzle,
but he was gathering props
to complete his horseback puzzle.

If you’re barely tall as meadow grass
and a horse is big and stout,
it takes a heap of cowboy try
to make things all work out.

He hunted up two buckets,
turned’em over on a bank,
disappeared down by the barn
and found a narrow plank.

Board went on the buckets,
step one was complete,
then hustled back up to the barn
to get his horse a treat.

Tossed oats in a coffee can,
couple handfuls so they’d rattle,
boldly walked out to the tank
where I knew things would unravel.

Several horses came and went,
each one drank their fill,
the little feller paid no mind,
just stood there calm and still,

until a big black gelding
raised his head and snuck a look,
boy shook the can, and that coax worked
just like he’d set a hook.

One hoof, then another,
not a trot but not a walk.
Gelding sensed just what was coming,
even so he did not balk.

With a flat hand full of berries,
lured that big head ever lower
’til Dad’s halter fell in place
and in a flash the catch was over.

Horse finished all the oats,
even the dribbles on the ground,
Lad calmly stroked his neck
like a lost friend he’d just found

and I swear that horse just melted,
how can youngsters be that smart?
Easy I guess, if all you do
flows freely from your heart.

Now I couldn’t hear what he was sayin’,
but while they both were walkin’,
his words just kept on coming
and that kid went right on talking

until horse and he were standing
at the board, set up for mounting,
and next thing I saw happening
was the little guy was ridin!

I assume with one arm wavin’,
he and his crew were gathering,
after that it took deciphering,
but I figure he was sorting.

Next came some pretend roping,
at this make believe ranch branding,
until the pairs were trailed to grazing,
and his faithful steed quit walking.

A Folgers can brim full of oats
lured a big head low once more,
halter off, kid rubbed his friend
gently like before.

Then it happened, thing that got me,
said I’d tell it straight,
Cowboy waved goodbye to that horse
‘til he reached the farthest gate.

I never interrupted them
nor made my presence known
because what happens, between two good friends,
is better left alone.

© 2018, Ken Cook
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Third-generation South Dakota cowboy and rancher Ken Cook told us he was originally inspired by a drawing, “The Best Gift,” by Western Horseman art director Ron Bonge.

Ken comes from a long line of respected cowboys, and he and Nancy Cook continue that line with their offspring. Ken and Jay Snider collaborated on a highly praised book and CD, Passing it On, with drawings by Tyler Crow and Roger Archibald. Ken also has CDs of his poetry.

Find more about Ken Cook and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

Jessica Hedges, poet, cowboy, photographer, businesswoman, Western marketing expert, and mom and wife of a cowboy, shared this photo of her son, Cinch, with Joey, his grandfather’s old horse. Cinch carries on a great cowboy line. His grandfather is cowboy and writer Mackey Hedges (“Last Buckaroo,” “Shadow of the Wind”). Jessica Hedges’s Branded in Ink company works at “Challenging the face of western marketing one brand at a time.” Her photography is available as prints, cards, and more. Find more at brandedinink.com and on Instagram.com.

(Please respect copyright. Request permission for use of this poem or photo.)

SHE’S COVID-19 FREE by Marleen Bussma

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SHE’S COVID-19 FREE
by Marleen Bussma

The cattle are fed. She feels ready for bed
as the day has been brutal and long.
The darned Covid-19 has her surly and mean,
but she has to stay steady and strong.

As yet no one is sick. It would be a real trick
for the virus to travel out here.
Forty miles from town they are hard to track down,
only bad weather’s found them this year.

Social distance is fine, but she’s drawing the line
with her hubby who’s dodging his work.
He has self-quarantined with his buddies convened
in the basement with beer and a smirk.

She’s done laundry and cooked. Her day’s been fully booked,
but there’s still time to bristle and fume.
Taking matters in hand she has plotted and planned
for her own space away from her groom.

The essentials are packed and a note has been tacked
to explain that he’s now on his own.
Now it’s his turn to care for the ranch that they share.
She is tired and her patience has flown.

But before she takes leave, she has plans to retrieve
all the guns that he has in the house.
She collects the TP threading rolls with great glee
on the barrels of the guns of her spouse.

Like a soldier at work she has no time to lurk
as she loads up the plunder and loot.
The white tissue brigade marches out where it’s laid
in the truck of her beer drinking coot.

The new diesel fires up. Is she sure of this? Yup!
Muddy tires roll to easier life.
When he leaves basement’s bliss, which true love will he miss,
his new truck, guns, TP, or his wife?

© 2020, Marleen Bussma
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Award-winning Utah poet Marleen Bussma told us about the poem’s inspiration, “It all came about when my brother mentioned to me that he’d heard a rumor that a new country/western song had just been released. The story line had the woman leaving her husband taking the guns, ammo, and toilet paper. He suggested I write a piece along those lines, since he needed a laugh. That’s how ‘She’s Covid-19 Free’ came to life. What our country is facing now is a serious situation, but you need a release valve to get through the day. ”

She provided the photograph above and commented, “Pine Valley Mountain is a dominating fixture in our landscape.”

marleen

Marleen Bussma’s book, Tales of the Trails (2019) received the top poetry Gold Medallion from the Will Rogers Medallion Awards. Her most recent CD is Snow on the Sage (2019). She has appeared at many gatherings and events, and has been a featured performer at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Find her  poetry, videos, reviews, books and cds, and more at marleenbussma.com.

On this same subject, you may want to give a listen to Dave Stamey’s “The Corona Blues.”

(Request permission to share this poem or photo.)

THE ELDER by Teresa Burleson

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THE ELDER
by Teresa Burleson

The old wood chair raked across the floor
as he slowly stood up,
He walked to the stove and poured himself
another steaming cup.

His bones creaked like the scuffed hardwood floor
beneath his feet,
The thump of boot heel and ring of spur
played out a pleasant beat.

He sat back down in the chair that he left
and took a long sip,
Listening to younger cowboys laugh ’bout
catching some ol’ rip.

About how rank the new colts are
and the inches of rain,
The price of feed and the average
of cattle’s weight and gain.

They boast and they brag
about their latest triumph or wreck.
Eating breakfast, making small talk
and giving the new guy heck.

Somehow the conversation turned
toward a more serious side,
About spiritual things like faith
and letting God be your guide.

The elder cowboy silently listened
to the lively debate,
He feared his input
would make the conversation abate.

Back and forth, the pro’s and con’s
of living a life for the Lord,
One believed he couldn’t do it
for he would just be too bored.

The new guy said, “You can’t be
a cowpuncher and be a Christian.”
Besides, he don’t go in for
all that pomp and benediction.

The older cowboy could feel the tension
and he had to clear it.
They knew he didn’t say much but
when he did you better hear it.

He looked them each in the eye
and spoke in a clear, confident voice.
As he told them that one of these days
they would have to make a choice.

About which trail to ride
and it best be sooner than later.
They need to think hard about
having a talk with their Creator.

He told them, “there’s some things
that you fellas need to understand.
You see, cowboys can be Christians
for our Lord is a cattleman.

He owns cattle on a thousand hills
and every creature on the ground.
Why, he started a colt on Palm Sunday
and rode him all the way to town!

Now, y’all be watchin’ for him to come back
like a thief in the night.
He’ll be ridin’ down from heaven
on a finished horse that’s white.

Just accept what the Lord has for you
and he’ll never turn his back.
Simply follow the rules in His book
and it will keep you on track.

Well, silence filled the cookhouse
as they heard what was on his mind,
Enlightenment shined in their eyes
and a few got in a bind.

Surprisingly, for a man that rarely spoke,
he had a lot to say.
They quietly left the table
with something to think about that day.

And you could hear the soft creak of the hardwood floor
beneath their feet,
The thump of boot heels and the ring of spurs
played out a pleasant beat.

Then the old wood chair raked across the floor
as he stood up to leave.
He put on his hat and silently prayed
that at least one would believe.

© 2018, Teresa Burleson
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission
Texan Teresa Burleson is a part of the forthcoming Winnsboro Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering (October 16-17, 2020) and when we requested a poem to help spread the word of that event, she sent us this poem.

The lineup for the second annual Winnsboro Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering also includes Hailey Sandoz and Mike Blakely.  The Gathering site tells, “…In addition to a great line-up of performers for the morning and afternoon sessions, this year’s Gathering features several special events. Come hear Michael Martin Murphey on Friday at Winnsboro Center for the Arts and sign up for the Open Mic session Friday afternoon from 5-7 pm. RJ Vandygriff will kick off Saturday afternoon with his special presentation of ‘The Cowboy Ain’t Dead Yet’… Find more at winnsborocowboypoetry.com.

Teresa Burleson was chosen as the 2019 International Western Music Association Female Poet of the Year. Find more about her and her books and cds, her schedule, her poetry, and more at teresaburlesoncowgirlpoet.com.

(Request permission for use of this poem.)

CYCLONES AND DOGIES by Griff Crawford

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CYCLONES AND DOGIES
by Griff Crawford (1876-1953)

It was raining nice and gentle
At the Cross-Bar Lazy-B,
When the foreman, Wild Hoss Charley
Lit his pipe and said to me:

“Ever see a cyclone, pardner?
Well, there’s nicer things I know,
And I happens to remember
One in Texas years ago.

It is mighty hot and dusty
And I’m headin’ down a draw,
Huntin’ for a cussed dogie
That has recent lost its ma.

When I hears a funny roarin’,
And I’m lookin’ up to see—
When here comes a cyclone, pardner,
Like a herd hell-bent for me.

And it lifts me pard, it lifts me,
Horse and all, and here we go,
Like the devil beatin’ tan-bark,
Up across New Mexico.

I ain’t sayin’ jest exactly
What we’re makin’, but its fast,
And I’m plum excited pronto,
Wonderin’ if I’m gonta last.

But I’m free to say fer certain
That I plum enjoys it, son,
Settin’ on my bronc, Apache,
That fer onct ain’t buckin’ none.

So we keeps a glidin’ easy
For an hour, or mebbe two;
When we turns back into Texas—
Which I’m glad to see it do.

And it mebbe sounds presumpshus,
But I kinda got the swing,
How, by leanin’ back and forward,
I could guide the pesky thing.

And I gets it back, I’m sayin’,
To a mile or so from town;
Then the thing gets tired or somethin’
And it quits and lets us down.

And I’m standin’ sorta shaky—
But I sudden has to laff
Fer right there beside Apache
Is that cussed dogie calf.

We had picked him up and fetched him
Right along from where he’s hid
So you might say that the cyclone
Sorta helped me out—it did.

“But I’m worried fer Apache—
Acts as though he’s mebbe sick
When I sudden gets back on him,
But he satisfied me quick

That he’s plumb O.K. and ready—
Fer he gives a squeal and pitch,
And he lands me neat and certain
On some cactus in a ditch.

So I pats him pard, I pats him—
With a stroke that’s good and stanch;
Then I ropes the dogie gentle
And we heads it fer the ranch.”

I suppose that such a cyclone
Killed or wounded quite a lot?
But the foreman, Wild Horse Charley,
Only murmured “I’ve forgot.”

…by Griff Crawford, from Wild Horse Charley of the Cross-Bar-Lazy-B (1928)

Here’s the last poem in our week of “windy weather” poems.

Griff Crawford’s humorous tales about “Wild Horse Charley of the Cross-Bar-Lazy-B” are included in his 1928 book with that title.

Crawford was born Oliver Griffith Crawford in 1876. He worked as a train scheduler for the Santa Fe Railroad for many years, stationed around the country, with stays in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, where he died in 1953.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Crawford wrote stories, poems, and fillers, including short rhymes that appeared in various newspapers. His obituary notes, “Mr. Crawford, who became known nationally as a poet and author, was a native of Ohio, born at New Lisbon in 1876. But though he wrote many short stories and poems, writing was his hobby and railroading his ‘First Love.'”

Find a selection poems and more about Crawford at cowboypoetry.com.

This 1898 photograph, “Oklahoma Cyclone,” is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

(This poem and photograph are in the public domain.)

WHY DO ALL THE TREES LEAN IN WYOMING? by Baxter Black

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WHY DO ALL THE TREES LEAN IN WYOMING?
by Baxter Black

He said, “The wind never blows in Wyoming.”
I said: Mister, where are you from?
It’ll take the top offa big R.C.
Or peel an unripened plum!

Wherever you been, you been lied to!
I lived in Wyoming, I know.
I once seen a horse turned clean inside out
From standin’ outside in a blow!

You don’t have to shave in the winter
Just pick a cool, windy place.
Stand there a minute, yer whiskers’ll freeze
and break off next to yer face!

They claim that a boxcar in Rawlins,
A Denver and ol’ Rio Grande,
Was picked off the track and blowed to the east
And beat the whole train to Cheyenne.

Why, they tell of a feller in Lander
Who jumped off a bale of hay
Before he hit the ground the wind picked ’em up
He came down in Casper next day!

They don’t have to shear sheep in Worland
When they’re ready, they wait for a breeze
And bunch’em in draws where the willers are thick
Then pick the wool offa the trees!

But the windiest tale that I heard
Was about the small town of Sinclair.
It used to set up on the Idaho line
Then one spring it just blew over there!

I carry this rock in my pocket
For good luck and here’s one for you.
Every little bit helps in Wyoming,
If yer skinny you better take two!

Well stranger, you might just be part right.
Though, fer sure you ain’t seen Devil’s Tower.
Let’s say the wind never blows in Wyoming…
Under eighty-five miles an hour.

© Baxter Black, from Poems Worth Saving (2013)

This week we’re looking at “windy weather” poems, and here’s one from top cowboy poet and occasional philosopher Baxter Black.

In the Introduction to Poems Worth Saving he notes:

…As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said when asked how many books he had written in his lifetime, he mulled briefly then replied,  “Altogether…too many.”

In my case, I can’t keep them all in print. It’s expensive, and I think it is illegal in some states.

So, suffice it to say his is the first sort. I have chosen the title Poems Worth Saving, obviously, to leave room for a sequel, Poems Not Worth Saving.

It is worth noting that his actual next book was A Commotion in Rhyme, (2018), a worthy successor to Poems Worth Saving.

Baxter is busy with many media projects; he has retired from live performances. He wants to relay this message, a policy announcement: Since Baxter Black is no longer doing live performances, there are inquiries about others using his material in their performances. His policy is that anyone is welcome to use his material in appropriate occasions, including non-profit or paid-for performances. He requests that the poems or stories be performed the way they are written, allowing for editing of length if needed. Please give the author credit. His office adds that no one, for any reason, has permission to include his work “on cds, books, or dvds…or to try to sell it in any manner, including online.”

(Please respect copyright and see the message above for information about the use of Baxter Black’s poems. This photo is courtesy of baxterblack.com.)