Elko's Cowboy Poetry Gathering Emphasizes Storytelling In Divisive Times

Feb 3, 2017

A 3-piece country band with a giant stand-up bass...at a diner in Elko for the 2017 gathering.
Credit Noah Glick

The 33rd annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is underway in Elko. Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick is there and reports this year, event organizers and performers are putting more of an emphasis on storytelling.

Pray our blessing, our amen

and all together find our way

oh my tribeswomen, my tribesmen

For there’s but one way back to glory,

oh kith and kin,

and that’s through story.

Andy Wilkinson delivered the keynote address, or in this case, keynote poem, Thursday. He’s an artist in residence at the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University.

He titled his opening prologue, “The Problem with the World Today.” After his performance he explained the importance of meaningful storytelling and communication.

“None of us talk to each other. We yell and we have bumper stickers. And no one has a dialogue. I’m not opposed to the ideas of people who don’t believe like me, but we never get to discuss them. And so the job of the storyteller is to give those two opposites a chance to reconcile.”

Wilkinson says many people choose to group others based on certain traits, rather than getting to know individuals personally. He adds that it’s no different for cowboys, but rural Americans are actually a diverse group of thinkers.

The gathering continues through Saturday night when it wraps up with the performance of the Moth Mainstage, a national storytelling event series that’s making it’s Nevada debut.