The Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering comes out of the gate on Thursday, Oct. 1, at the Fort Lewis Community Concert Hall with a performance by the man dubbed by the New York Times as “…the nation’s most successful living poet.” Baxter Black swears that’s an exaggeration, but his modesty may not hold up under the sheer tonnage of his newspaper and magazine columns, National Public Radio appearances, public events, television, books, CDs, videos and commercial radio. Forget Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. If a for-real cowboy — and former large animal veterinarian — can be a for-real star in this day and time, Baxter Black is.
While Black is much loved by Durango audiences, he is just the highest profile performer of the 40 or so coming from all over the West to gather at the Strater Hotel. Sam Noble, talent wrangler for the local event, says “We like to provide our audiences with the real deal – performers who are working cowboys and cowgirls — whenever possible, and within that group are some phenomenal poets and musicians.” Besides Black, Noble deadpans that evening headline performers are “coming from North Dakota, Nebraska, and New Mexico, and that’s just the N’s.”
Cowboy Gathering Coordinator Linda Mannix says that when people hear the word poetry, “they think of stuffy professors smoking a pipe”, but nothing could be further from the truth. “There is a lot of genuine feeling in our music and poetry performances, but there is also some of the funniest material you’ve ever heard on any stage.”
In addition to the poetry and music, the 2009 version of the Cowboy Gathering features poets on a special DSNGRR Train, a cowboy poetry and music trail ride at Rapp Corral, and a variety show built around a tongue-in-cheek “old-time radio audition” format — hosted by Lindy Simmons, a recently-retired professor (sans pipe) from Fort Lewis College.
If you want a taste of what the Gathering is all about, “try the free Saturday performances,” says Mannix. “These are nationally-known poets and musicians who perform in themed sessions such as ‘Hard Times’ or ‘Wild Cow Tales’. It’s the heart of one of Southwest Colorado’s longest-running cultural events, and the sessions are all free.”
Saturday morning of the Cowboy Gathering features Colorado’s largest motorless parade, and several galleries have Western-themed exhibits during the week.
“Part of the reason we all live here in southwest Colorado is the connection to our western heritage,” says Mannix, “and we think it’s important to ‘keep it western’ as long as we can.” All events are open to the public.
For more information go to www.durangocowboypoetrygathering.org.