Vess Quinlan

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Vess Quinlan is an American Cowboy Poet, who is widely considered to be one of the most respected poets of his genre. Quinlan's work has been published in many books and magazines, as well as on various online poetry databases. His writing is based on his real life experiences as a rancher, and really gives his poetry a lifelike feel.

Early life and education[edit]

Vess Quinlan was born in Eagle, Colorado on November 23, 1940, and is part of the fourth generation on both sides of his family to spend most of their lives working at raising livestock in rural Colorado.

His initial interest in poetry was sparked during a year-long bout with polio as a boy in 1951. During his time confined to bed, he began reading and writing poetry of the Cowboy variety. It seems only natural that his style of choice was western, due to the fact that he had worked as a ranch chore boy and cattle hand since the age of 15, when he ran away from home. From the time Quinlan started high school, it is believed that he attended at least 9 different high schools while doing chores morning and night for ranch families. He then worked mostly as a ranch hand until he found a partner able to purchase a farm and ranch near San Acacio, Colorado.

He still lives on the place, and has since 1970, but is no longer involved in the operation.

Beginnings in poetry[edit]

As mentioned above, Vess Quinlan's initial interest in poetry was sparked while being contained indoors with polio for nearly an entire year in 1951. During this time of confinement, he began reading poetry with themes related to ranching and farming, and started to write some of his own. As time progressed, he began writing more and more poetry, and as word spread about the quality and nature of his work, his reputation was built into what it is today.

Example of works[edit]

Sold Out[edit]

The worst will come tomorrow

When we load the saddle horses.

We are past turning back;

The horses must be sold.

The old man turns away, hurting,

As the last cow is loaded.

I hunt words to ease his pain

But there is nothing to say.

He walks away to lean

On a top rail of the corral

And look across the calving pasture

Toward the willow grown creek.

I follow.

Absently mimicking his walk,

And stand a post away.

We don’t speak of causes or reasons.

Don’t speak at all;

We just stand there

Leaning on the weathered poles,

While the shadows consume the pasture.

Sold Out is one of Quinlan's more well known poems. This is just one example of his ability to give an outsider such a vivid picture of what life is really like for a cowboy, or rancher.

Cowboy poetry conventions[edit]

Until very recently, Cowboy poetry was an aspect of the Western Lifestyle that simply was not prevalent. This all changed in January 1985, when the first Cowboy Poets gathering was held in Elko, Nevada. It was at this time, that the genre really took off, and became more widely recognized and appreciated. Quinlan attended the first Elko Gathering and has often been invited to perform at gatherings that developed in other states including the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. These conventions offer not only traditional poetry, but also cowboy music, which is not traditional country music and much more of the like.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. https://web.archive.org/web/20111005000436/http://www.westernfolklife.org/Current-NCPG/2011-national-cowboy-poetry-gathering-performers.html
  2. http://www.worldofpoetry.org/usop/dream.htm
  3. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/greatplainsquarterly/902/

Video clip on YouTube "Ves Quinlin Cowboy Poet"