Originally Published: August 1, 2014 6 a.m.
Working cowboys will tie their horses to a post and saddle up their muses for the 27th annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering on Aug. 7, 8 and 9.
The event features "a great bunch of poets and singers," organizers say of the gathering, which kicks off Thursday, Aug. 7, with headliner Dave Stamey in the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center, before cowboy poets spread out in venues on the college campus Friday and Saturday to recite poetry they have written about their experiences in the ranching life.
Stamey, proclaimed the "Charley Russell of Western Music" by Cowboys and Indians Magazine, will perform at 7 p.m. On Friday at the same time, Mary Kaye will be in concert in the Performing Arts Center, and Saturday's 7 p.m. show features Kristyn Harris. Tickets for these shows range from $18 to $30 and are available at the box office by calling 776-2000 or visiting www.ycpac.com. All three evenings highlight both the headliners and poets and other musicians.
Harris, a Texan, has won numerous awards for her singing and guitar talents. Mary Kaye comes from Utah and is also an award-winning songstress.
All of he poets will entertain their audiences for free. Some are old-timers at Arizona Cowboy Poets gatherings and some are newcomers this year, Paul Bliss of Utah among the first-timers.
Bliss got on stage sort of through the back door. When he was in high school, he and his English teacher - a "60s hippy type" - were at odds and the teacher threatened to flunk him, he said, unless he wrote a story and got credit for it.
The paper came back with red ink all over it, Bliss said, but the teacher gave him an A+ for creativity in writing about a cowboy rodeo clown. But, as captain of the school's football team, he took a lot of ribbing when his teammates read his "cute story" when they found out about it, he said.
He felt like the teasing "kicked his guts." In looking back, Bliss believes his fellow football players were joking about his story, but, nevertheless, he hid his writing talent "for a long, long time," he said, until his wife "snooped around" and "violated my privacy act."
She put him on the spot a couple of times and, with shaky legs, he said, he recited his work out loud to people assembled. "I was scared when my wife put me on the spot," he said, but he found "people liked it."
Now, though, his attitude is, "I don't intimidate well," and he stands with more self-assurance before a crowd.
His cowboy poems "come to me," Bliss said, "and I've got to sit down and write them or I lose them."
Since his life is ranching, he has the gamut to write about, from round-ups, trailing and horse cutting to kids working horses, and even about sheep. "Sheep are funny," he said.
Poet Lola Chiantaretto, who lives on a ranch about 25 miles southwest of Bagdad, has been among the poets' gathering numerous times, and first put pen to paper to write poems rather than buy anniversary and birthday cards for her husband, she said. She referred to the old saying, "necessity is the mother of invention," as the reason for her becoming a poet. "Our life here on the ranch and our family" serve as her inspiration, Chiantaretto said. "Most of them are stories. I try not to go to the negative side. Life is sad enough. We don't need to add more" in written works."
Rather, Chiantaretto reflects on the joys, the hardships the solitude, and the humor of seeing a cow walking in her yard. "I try to write about a whole picture and what strikes me - the heart-felt kinds of things that strike me."
The poets will recite their poems from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. For a complete schedule, visit the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering website at azcowboypoets.org.