Sunday, January 27, 2019

CPU Pioneer Heritage Award.

A little over a week ago, at the Cowboy Poets of Utah annual Symposium, the group honored me with the Pioneer Heritage Award “For living the life, dreaming the dream, and telling the stories of Utah’s Cowboy Heritage.”
I have been involved with CPU since the inaugural meeting back in 2002, and I suppose the fact that there aren’t many other originals still on the grazing side of the grass may have something to do with my selection.
The organization focuses on public performance of poetry, which, as many of you may know, has never been of much interest to me except as an enthusiastic audience member. But I am a writer, and writing poems about cowboys and the West is some of what I do, so we have always shared a common interest.
In any case, I am both surprised at and flattered with the recognition. Thank you, CPU.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Really Stupid Words, Chapter Five

American English is a rich language. It’s always changing and evolving. New words and usages come and go. Many that come along are helpful. They clarify, they improve, they enhance and enrich.
But some are just plain stupid.
They obfuscate, they complicate, they confuse. They reveal a lack of understanding.
“Skill set” has become about as ubiquitous as water.
One must ask why.
What does “skill set” offer our language that isn’t covered by “skills” other than the fact that it adds a syllable? And we all know how some people will never use one syllable when two—or three—or four—will do. All those syllables make you sound smarter, don’t they?
That question is easily answered with a simple, one-syllable, two-letter word: no.
 If you can think of a reason to use “skill set” rather than “skills” let me know. The ability to change my mind is among my skills—or is it within my skill set?

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

My Favorite Book, Part 18

A “biographical novel” is a tricky undertaking. The author must hold to the facts while, at the same time, delve into the deeper truths of the inner workings of the subject. Over-reliance on one or the other can tip the scales too much and render the work lopsided and useless as either history or literature.
Win Blevins strikes a perfect balance in Stone Song: A Novel of the Life of Crazy Horse. Extensive research into the history and culture of the Lakota is evident throughout the book, as is his plumbing the depths of the recorded facts about and passed-down memories of Crazy Horse. It all comes together in a striking and engaging portrait of a great man. His strengths and shortcomings play out in a life torn between his duty toward his people, and obedience to the spirit that guides him.
While the well-known events of Crazy Horse’s life are included, such as his leadership at the battle at the Little Bighorn and other fights, Blevins does not hang his story on the extravagant or waste the reader’s time rehashing history. Instead, he concentrates on how those incidents interplay with the more profound and mystical moments in the man’s life that, taken together, reveal his character.
In the end, we see Crazy Horse as a human being much like, and very different from, ourselves. And we come away reminded that, as Blevins renders it in the Lakota language, mitakuye oyasin—we are all related.