On February 2, 2017, Andy Wilkinson delivered the Keynote Address to the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. Addressing this year’s theme of ‘story’, his poetic treatise on the creative process received a standing ovation and is now available from Dry Crik Press in book form.
For a long time now, I have been studying and thinking on story and narration, mostly in terms of how they are fundamental to creative process. So when asked to deliver the keynote address for the 2017 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering – with its theme being storytelling – I jumped at the chance. I chose poetry and song over prose, both to honor the substance and history of the Gatherings and to force myself to a finer, deeper understanding of the topic and task.
Then, all the while I was writing, an already-divided nation split even wider, adding not only a new perspective to the work, but also an urgency. For reconciliation, I now believe, is itself a creative process, one without beginning or end, inseparable from story and narration. And that, in turn, gives me hope for a kinder world.
My assignment from the Western Folklife Center also required that I write an essay for the event program, which I used as an opportunity to flesh-out the least-accessible part of the poem, that being the intimate relationship with the sciences and story and narration.
I mean for both essay and poem to be read, and sung, aloud. The line breaks, spacings, and archaic punctuation are there to facilitate oral performance, not for style and certainly not to please the eye. You are welcome to supply your own melody.
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