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Dick Warwick reads "Christmas in a Line Shack"

photo by Bill Paterson

From Dick Warwick, the "Cowboy Poet"

I was raised amid the rolling Palouse Country hills of eastern Washington, and I still live on the home place. Although we almost always had animals, this is mostly farm country, producing fine dryland crops of wheat, barley, lentils, and peas. Though I have tried out places like California, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and the wet side of Washington, the Palouse will always be home. The landscape is ingrained in my brain and its rhythms are as familiar as my heartbeat.
I have written poetry of one kind or another since my school days, but did not happen onto the cowboy variety until 1990, when I heard that some Australian poets were coming to Elko, Nevada. I had become a fan of Australian bush poetry suddenly, one evening in 1981, in Perth, Western Australia, while on a rain break from a job driving “header” in the wheat harvest. Then later, in Elko, I heard some cowboy poets and decided that I was one, since I had been writing similar material for some time. And so it goes.

I’ve shared my poetry with audiences at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Australia’s National Folk Festival, and loads of other places, but somehow have not managed to stem modern culture’s flood tide of folly, flummery and foolery. Could be I’m simply a contributor to it. I have participated in thousands of conversations about the weather, politics, commodity prices and punctuation—but again, to little effect. I shall have to be content with my role as Barnyard Yarnbard, optimist and prognosticator of doom.

Although I have spawned a few CDs and a couple of books, my best writings were penciled onto the bulk tank of a John Deere 55H combine which, unfortunately, was eventually sold for scrap. And at a pretty low price, too.

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Chris Maccini previously worked at SPR as Morning Edition host and producing arts and special programming such as The Bookshelf, Poetry Moment, Northwest Arts Review, special features and more.