Robert Frost once said that to be a poet is a condition, not a profession. It’s this very idea that draws together ranchers, conversationalists and others deeply rooted in the rural West to tell stories each year at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (NCPG).
Celebrating its 31st year, the NCPG is underway in Elko, Nevada. It was first founded by folklorists to celebrate the oral tradition of the working cowboy through poetry and music.
Traditionally, poems of the cowboy are not written, but exchanged only through recitation. The earliest reports of cowboy song come from the mid-1870s, during the formative period of the great cattle drives. Believe it or not, this 19th century birth-date makes the practice relatively young to historians.
It’s these hundreds of poets and poetry-lovers who visit Elko for the NCPG each year that keep the spoken spirit of Western America alive. Through workshops, open mics, exhibits and musical performances, history continues to be creatively preserved.