If you are in the mood for some romantic realism – some rustic rhythmic adventure – an evening of cowboy poetry may be just the thing for you.
This form of poetry has its roots in campfire gatherings after a long hard day’s work. Spontaneous compositions of tall tales and folklore, sometimes with instruments and often without, has entertained the wild west of the imagination for generations.
Rory Tyler is presenting traditional and original cowboy poetry on Thursday, March 1, at the Castle Valley Library at 2 Castle Valley Drive, and on Saturday, March 3, at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center in Moab at 111 E. 100 North. Both events start at 7 p.m. and will carry listeners across the vast Western landscape of time and space through two hours of rhyming verse and storytelling.
Tyler says some of the traditional poems he will be sharing are more than 100 years old. Others are contemporary and many are his own original work. The common thread is of Western lifestyle and weaves through cowboy values and practices, humorous anecdotes, memories of people and times long gone, and sarcasm or dry humor about modern ways.
“A lot of it is fun,” Tyler said. “It’s funny; some of it’s poignant, some of it’s thrilling.”
To demonstrate the diversity, Tyler says his longest original poem is a 20-minute-long epic based on the famous fur trapper Hugh Glass, while one of his playful originals is about cowboys riding dinosaurs.
“Jurassic rodeos!” Tyler said. “You can’t lose!”
Tyler even has some dirty trickster poetry saved for “after the grandmas and kids head out.” The example referenced is a Crow Indian story turned into a cowboy poem. It uses clever humor to illustrate graphic points of an old tale that will make audience members chuckle and squirm.
Poetry is a regular part of Tyler’s life, second only to his passion for anthropology, archaeology and rock art. While he has lived in Grand County since 1993, this is only his second public show in 25 years.
The idea came to him after recent events.
“I went back East to visit the family and my nephew and his husband are in the theater arts,” Tyler said. “I put a show together for them and their friends and thought, ‘Well, that was fun. I should put something together back home.’”
The events are free, though Tyler is calling them his “Pass the Hat Productions” with the intention of doing just that, to help cover expenses.
Moab Arts and Recreation Center Director Meg Stewart said she is excited that the Moab Poets and Writers Group is utilizing the MARC for the event.
“I don’t know anything about (cowboy poetry),” Stewart said. “But I’m happy to see people getting involved in the arts in different ways. The more poetry and writing events we have in Moab (the better).”
Anchored in tradition, cowboy poetry continues to evolve. The 35th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering was held in Elko, Nevada, at the end of January this year. Cities across the United States and Canada have regular cowboy poetry “roundups” and celebrate the tradition every April.
Cowboy poetry is meant to be delivered, heard and felt. However, a taste of Tyler’s show can perhaps be imagined through Wallace McRae’s piece, “Reincarnation,” in which a cowboy dies and is buried, decays, blooms into a posy, is consumed by a “hoss,” and is then deposited as waste in the desert, to which the narrator concludes, “Slim, You ain’t changed, all that much.”
Perhaps the tradition will catch on in Moab.
Rory Tyler to share cowboy poetry in Moab, Castle Valley
“It’s funny; some of it’s poignant, some of it’s thrilling.”
When: Thursday, March 1, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, March 3, at 7 p.m.
Where: March 1 reading at the Castle Valley Library, 2 Castle Valley Drive; March 3 reading at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North
Cost: Free; donations appreciated