You know that the popular image of Cowboys by the press and city sophisticates, is of a redneck, rowdy, illiterate, and non socially acceptable type of person. BULLHOCKY! The cowboy that came up the trails were a mixture of imigrants, adventurers, indian, ex-slave, Mexican, ex-soldier and anything else that was in the mixture of the American population. At a campfire there may be a man who could not sign his name and next to him a man who recited Chaucer or Shakespere.
It was a group that composed poetry of the experiences, dreams, tragedies, and everyday experiences. Much of the verse was put to tunes from the old country or the popular tunes of the day. So much would have been lost without the field research of John Lomax and others who preserved a lot of it for the Smithsonian.
But as the time of the trailhand lasted a scant 20 years there has been a need and culture for every generation. As long as there is beef there is cowboys. The cowboy culture is alive today as it was in the 1800's. And the verse that the cowboy wrote is still being written and recited today.
Classic poets may look down on the form as not being truly a poetic form. However the elite poetry circles tend to write poetry for each other and not wider audiences. I see no huge following of todays modern poetry academics. However the people who are rural, or have an understanding of history have a vibrant poetry form that is vital and alive.
Nationwide on April 15 - 21 is COWBOY POETRY WEEK. Many places around the country there will be special events and activities. If you want to read some of the latest cowboy poetry Google COWBOY POETRY AT THE BAR - D RANCH. This non profit website is dedicated to the active poets of today. It is a non profit site founded and run by a fan from San Francisco. Yes she is a city girl who is in love with the writings of todays poets.
You can subscribe to be a member and keep the site alive and get news of happenings all over the US and Canada. Yes Canada has a vibrant cowboy culture too. There is a Rural Library program you can support and even submit your own work. There is always news and interesting items on the site.
You can also put in www.cowboypoetry.com. While your at it look at www.westernmusic.org for the Western Music Association website. The organization has a large group of poets, writers, and wordsmiths. There is even a Wordsmith Chapter.
In the words of a famous poet (one of ours) "the cowboy ain't dead, he is just hard to see from the road". Oh by the way. Some of the best 'cowboys' I have known and some of the best cowboy poets, are Cowgirls.