Don’t worry. Bewilderment is common from folks who haven’t yet experienced this weeklong, town-wide, full-participation celebration of authentic western cultural arts. However, attend and you’ll quickly discover why thousands flock to “the Gathering” each winter. To clarify, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering isn’t just about poetry. And, like the real American West, it certainly isn’t just for cowboys. Many years after several folklorists wrangled a handful of poets together to share an overlooked American tradition, the NCPG has blossomed into an incredible “six days of poetry, music, dancing, workshops, exhibits, conversations, food and fellowship” drawing revelers from all walks of life — western and beyond.
The result? Consider this: how many places can you encounter a ranch matriarch, Native American poet laureate, pre-teen yodeling champ, and bronc-riding free-verse slam poet, all in a single show… or even a single shuttle van? At the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, you can discover horseman cultures from around the world, learn a traditional skill, dance the two-step, plan for the West’s future with ranchers and conservationists, watch home-made films of rural life, meet new friends at the historic Pioneer Saloon, enjoy Basque food, listen to tall tales, dispel myths, build bridges and be inspired.
Far more than the sum of the performances that take place each year—a reinvigorating tradition upheld since 1985—Cowboy Poetry is a community bound together by their shared interests and love of poetry, music, art and making a handcrafted life in the American West. Get ready to “experience today’s renaissance of storytelling through poetry, song, video, visual art, new media and more.” Watch tradition respected and futures embraced with a lineup of favorite familiar faces, plus a talented bunch of new ones who are sure to make their debuts to packed houses (because it’s just that kind of crowd). If you’re ready for a western cultural bash that takes place as much on stage as off, in a town that truly rises to the occasion, get yourself to Elko. Share a story and/or Buckaroo Brew with soon-to-be-former strangers. Become a part of the tradition.
2022 Gathering: Keeping the West Wild
Word is officially out! The 38th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering’s theme will be Keeping the West Wild, and take place in downtown Elko January 24-29, 2022. The American West’s ever-changing landscapes, communities, flora, and fauna have long inspired exploration, reflection, and creative expression. For the 2022 Gathering, we invite Western poets, songwriters, artists, and land stewards to bring new and old stories to light as they endeavor to create a West that hosts healthy and hospitable landscapes and agriculture-based communities.
Health and safety will continue to be a priority for artists and audiences attending the 2022 Gathering, by staying up-to-date with any COVID-19 developments and recommendations for in-person events. For the most up to date information on the 2022 Gathering, click here. Gathering participants can purchase tickets to individual shows or individual day passes, though the best way to truly experience this celebrated annual event is by getting your hands on a 3-Day Deluxe Pass. With this, you’ll get access to dozens of daytime poetry and music performances Thursday through Saturday. The Gathering is free for Western Folklife Center members—become one today (or renew your existing membership) by dialing 1-888-880-5885 ext. 222. Visit westernfolklife.org or email [email protected] for more information.