"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding watercolor, metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

"Cowboy" poetry, and pages of a year half gone

"Greasy corrals"
"After awhile the hills wrap
around you, hold life secure:
the rock, hawk and oak tree...."
One of the books I've read these first six months came into my hands in April, written by a California poet and winner of the Wrangler Awards for  best poetry book of the year at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Wrangler Awards

"Old Men"
"So much needs not to be said.
Old men grin with their eyes,
save breath with a look...."
I'm a judge in the non-fiction category, and the "pay," is getting to see all the new books, and then attend the shindigs at the museum and meet the authors. His book is the seventh I've managed to digest in these last six months, the year half gone today.

 "Old Words"
"There are places to save
things, spots out of the way
of traffic, dusty cubby holes
for lost loves and ...
"One day, we clean house
to find all the old words
are now meaningless...
I'd met John Dofflemyer before, when he won another Wrangler in 2009 for Poems from Dry Creek, so I didn't want to miss out on this book. He's a genuine California cowboy, so he writes about the land and people in a haunting way that captures the West, and my spirit. Since 2005, he and his wife Robbin have a blog, Drycrik Journal. It has her photography and his poetry, and you'll enjoy it.

"Under Oaks"
..."that I wear the dust
of where I've been
upon my flesh
and in my lungs...."
The new book is Proclaiming  Space, Award winner and though I told him the first book really spoke to me, he said he was happier with this one. It is deeper,  with four sections, "Proclaiming Space," "Waiting to be Served," "Out of Doors," "and "Elegies." In it he delves into lives past and present, and even into the insane politics of the time, though it's not a political book. I get the impression all of these poems come from his observations on his ranch, whether he's working, or just contemplating the pasture growing. 

"Snakes in the road"
...A man can endure
only so many squeezes, so many crosshairs
before he begins to step around insects,
and spiders, avoiding the snakes in the road."
And I note influences from other poets, like one of my favorites Robinson Jeffers, and also Ezra Pound, who he does quote from in the book. One echoes Williams Carlos Williams "Red Wheelbarrow, "So much depends on a red wheelbarrow...."

"So much depends
on soil--"
There are too many favorites of mine among the more than 100 poems about hay rakes, cattle, snakes, wars, mortality,  the seasons, Christmas, Cowboys, cattle and poetry and more to do more than give you these few lines. 

"...we are oaks with acorns at our feet,
long-limbed sycamores dancing naked
in the rain--no time to be discrete."
Hope these excerpts  whet your appetite, and you go to his blog and hook up.
The Dofflemyers
"To Hell in a Handbasket"
"Hear the hatred rattling in the grass?
Old war babies crying in their sleep, still
believing they had a say and glad
to have a black man now to blame....
"The rock doesn't care anymore, rivers
laugh off the mountains, but the deserts
remember every word in our heads..."
"Usura-Contra Natura"
"...beyond the grasp of governments and time,
beyond the baited traps of the same insatiable
perchmates: Mrs. Greed and Mr. Power."
"Visiting the Future"
"Mule packers, horse lovers
wearing outdoor eyes--
who've caught God
drooling at his easel
on every horizon...." 

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