Western Weather: A Livelihood, An Inconvenience And A Muse

Feb 9, 2017

The American West is characterized by intense periods of drought and unpredictable weather patterns. For some regional artists, the weather itself serves as a muse for art and poetry.

Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick reports.

Andy Wilkinson recited a portion of his poem, Mining the Mother Lode, during last week's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. It’s about the degradation of the Ogallala Aquifer in the southern panhandle of Texas, and serves as a call to action.

here in the land of the mother-lode aquifer
rains unpredictable, even in good seasons
never enough but for grasses and buffalo
never enough but for seasonal wanderers
never enough for the dwellings of permanence
needed for farming and ranching and industry

Wilkinson, along with three other poets, worked with filmmakers to create visual stories about weather, particularly drought.

“We’re the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, and the people who should be letting the people today know about what tomorrow’s going to be like.”

Olivia Romo is a poet from New Mexico who works for a water rights nonprofit in the state. She says the main issue facing her region is the diversion of water rights from community ditches that her family and others depend on for agriculture.

“And as we continue to see the drought and the change of our environment, we are very much struggling—and it’s a scary time.”

Romo says she uses poetry as a way to teach people about critical water issues.