Friday, April 13, 2012

Book Review: Things a Cowboy Sees and other poems

Things a Cowboy Sees
And other poems
By Rod Miller

The next time you hear a cowboy poet is in town, dig out your jeans, pointy-toed boots, sweat-stained ten-gallon hat, your worn leather belt with its custom-made hard-earned rodeo-trophy saucer-sized buckle (how anyone can bend over when wearing one remains a cowboy secret) and find yourself a seat in the hall. If you don’t have the trappings, don’t let that stop you; nobody gets turned away.

Say “cowboy poetry” and my first response is “witty.” The cowboy poets I’ve seen are engaging performers who recite their own original polished works from memory (and who memorizes anymore these days?). It’s a great example of the oral tradition, an art we’re forgetting to cherish and preserve and cultivate. In my mind, cowboy poetry boils down to two elements: the storyteller and the listener (or in this case the writer and the reader). Imagination forms the bridge where both elements meet, nod their mutual approval, and shake hands.

As a city girl who hasn’t written a poem in years, I don’t feel qualified to critique or analyze the literary form. Instead, I’ll tell you how What a Cowboy Sees and other poems by Spur Award winner Rod Miller makes me feel. From laugh-out-loud funny to poignant with a touch of silliness and a sprinkling of romance, Miller’s poems cover the gamut, and so did my reactions when I read them. From start to finish, this gem of a book feels genuine, with nothing contrived or forced. The introduction, which traces the history and development of this literary form, paired with Miller’s straightforward and very readable style (he always finds just the right word, and has the gift of “turning a phrase”), makes the commentary on the art as fascinating as the poems themselves, and his passion for all things western permeates every page. The cover, layout, font, graphics and overall presentation of the book are in complete harmony with its contents. 

 No matter what backgrounds readers may bring to this book, it has something for everyone, and offers new insights into a way of life and an art that are both uniquely Western American. Both are well worth celebrating and preserving. 


About the author: Rod Miller describes himself as “poet, novelist, historian, biographer, journalist, essayist, reviewer, screenwriter." He's also an experienced rider and rodeo participant. A visit to his webpage reveals that Rod's work appears in "books and magazines, anthologies and collections, online and on the screen. From poems to stories to articles to opinion, he writes in a variety of styles for various media. His subject matter is, largely, the American West, and he writes about its people and its places, its past and its present." He is a recipient of the prestigious Spur Award in poetry and short story. 

 Things a Cowboy Sees and other poems 
by Rod Miller 
Port Yonder Press, 2011

Rod Miller


Pam Williams said...

Move over, Waddie Mitchell! Cowboy poetry speaks to the down-to-earth in all of us, something more genuine than the whiney coffee-house poets. Looking forward to reading this one.

Carole said...

Since you like to read, I wondered if you might be interested in finding out more about cryptic crosswords. This is a link to a post I did recently which looked particularly at clues that involved anagrams. Cryptic Crosswords - Anagrams