Friday, November 20, 2015

Reflecting on “Reflections.”

range magazine and the Range Conservation Foundation just released a new book titled Reflections of the West: Cowboy painters and poets. (Ain’t that a fine title?)
It’s 160 big, colorful pages of pure delight.
Poetry by some of the finest versifiers, living and dead, to ever practice the art (and me, as the exception that proves the rule) accompany paintings by a variety of accomplished artists who illuminate cowboy life. (That's a Don Weller painting on the cover.) Together, the words and pictures offer heartfelt reflections of ranching and riding, horses and cattle, sheep and shenanigans, landscapes and wildlife.
This book’s predecessor, Brushstrokes and Balladeers: Painters and poets of the American West, (another fine title) won a slew of honors, including the Western Heritage “Wrangler” Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. This book may well outdo it.
Two of my poems are featured: “A Bolt of Broomtails” and “Morning Glory.” The poems accompany beautiful art, the first a painting by the late, great Utah artist Maynard Dixon; the second by contemporary artist Cheri Christensen.
Perfect for Christmas and other gift-giving occasions, the book is available from the publisher online at and by phone at 1-800-RANGE-4-U.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 21: THIS is how you write.

Consider writing. We do that here all the time. But, this time, let’s consider the physical process of arranging words.
I do it on a computer keyboard, using the default word-processing program that shows up on most such machines. Some people I know use computers armed with fancy programs that perform all kinds of intricate tasks that help with the minutiae of writing books. Those things have never interested me, but to each his own.
Some people I know write splendidly on typewriters, including poet Paul Zarzyski and novelist Loren Estleman. One of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry, writes with pencil and paper. Patrick Dearen writes on paper as he walks the streets in the night.
Whatever works.
But there are people who think they know best, and believe their way of writing is superior—not only for themselves, but for the rest of us wretches who write otherwise and are too ignorant to know better.
I recently read a quotation by an author (who shall remain nameless, but if you really want to know I’ll fill you in) who writes longhand. He says, “Nothing compares with the fluidity of longhand. You shift things around without shifting them around—in that you merely indicate a possibility while your original thought is still there. The trouble with a computer is that what you come out with has no memory, no provenance, no history—the little cursor, or whatever it’s called, that wobbles around the middle of the screen falsely gives you the impression that you’re thinking. Even when you’re not.”
Fluidity. A fine word. The fluid that flows in longhand may well be sublime. It could just as easily be sewage. If said author wants to write longhand, fine. But to imply—no, out and out say—that writers who don’t, don’t think as well as he does is, to put it politely, what originates in a male bovine and becomes sewage.
THIS is how you write: however YOU want.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Poems, by George.

About as many decades ago as the fingers on one hand can count (not counting the thumb) I studied journalism at Utah State University. George Rhoades was one of my professors. After USU, he taught at the University of Texas-Arlington then retired to raise hay in Oklahoma.
After the Chisholm, from Outskirts Press ( ), is his second book of poetry. The first part of the book features poems about cowboys and rodeo, the second part is reminiscences about hardscrabble farm life, and part three includes poems on a variety of subjects.
There’s a lot to like in this collection of poems by George. But my favorite thing might be this stanza from “Class of ’53,” which says just about everything a poet can say about life:

They went to set the world on fire
With their youth and dreams,
But now the fires are dying down,
They sail in shallow streams.