Cowboy poets charm fairgoers on Western heritage day - Albuquerque Journal

Cowboy poets charm fairgoers on Western heritage day

Floyd Beard, an award-winning cowboy poet from Colorado, shares his stories during the New Mexico State Fair on Thursday. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)
Cowboy poet Floyd Beard at New Mexico State Fair at the Expo New Mexico in Albuquerque on Thursday. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

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Valerie and Floyd Beard got up early Thursday morning, hopped in their car and drove straight from their home in southeast Colorado to Albuquerque to perform cowboy poetry at the Chevron Pavilion stage at the New Mexico State Fair, which ends its 11-day run Sunday.

“The old faucet drips as slowly she sips her coffee in the morning’s low glow,” Valerie says to a crowd, reciting the first poem she ever wrote, titled “No Better Life.”

She wrote it in 2015, and won the International Western Music Association’s cowboy poetry novice division contest with it, an event she says inspired her to fully become a cowboy poet like her husband.

“I would always go with him to these events, and after a while I thought, ‘I could do that!'” Beard said with a laugh. “I tell people that I just did it in self-defense, because I got tired of sitting out there and I decided it would be more fun to be up here.”

Floyd, usually sporting an authentic gunslinger moustache, has been writing and performing poetry since the 1970s. Although it wasn’t considered “cool” for a cowboy to write poetry back then, he says he always had a passion for telling stories and rhyming words.

Floyd is inspired by elements of his cowboy lifestyle – things like his cattle or the beauty of a landscape will begin to form a poem in his mind. It comes naturally for him, and standing on a stage to recite poetry to an audience is something he could do for hours at a time.

“If I can put a picture in your mind with my poems, my stories, then I’ll be happy,” Floyd said.

Valerie Beard laughs while her husband, Floyd Beard, recites his poetry at the State Fair on Thursday, which was Western Heritage Day at the fair. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

Valerie loves the language, and one of her biggest inspirations beside Floyd is Henry Herbert Knibbs, a cowboy poet from the early 20th century. Actually, a lot of the Beards’ poetry is inspired by Knibbs. Their poems are characterized by narrative storytelling, almost like sitting around a fire and listening to them describe everything from nature to the natural surroundings they’ve been around all their lives.

The Beards say they don’t usually write poetry together, but they will occasionally share the stage to perform someone else’s poetry. During Floyd’s performance at the fair, he called Valerie up to join him for a touching performance of “Where the Ponies Come to Drink” by Knibbs: “But for eighteen years your partner, wise and faithful, such a crony seems worth watching for, a spell, down where the ponies come to drink.”

Valerie recalled rehearsals for her first performance, and how Floyd recorded her reciting the poem and had her watch it over and over. They even practiced during the morning drive to Albuquerque on the day of their shows, “just north of Las Vegas to down north of Santa Fe,” Valerie said.

“We have an advantage because we have each other and we bounce it off each other back and forth,” Valerie said. “He’ll help me with hand gestures.”

The Beards were able to retire a while back, so now they have the financial freedom and time to do more poetry. Aside from writing and performing, the Beards still run Corriente cattle south of Kim, Colorado, alongside their daughter and son-in-law.

Floyd Beard, sporting a belt buckle proclaiming “Kansas Cowboy Poetry Champion 2021,” holds his notebook during a State Fair appearance. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

“We’ve always had cattle, that’s kept us grounded in the western lifestyle so we know what we’re talking about,” Valerie said.

The Beards are award-winning poets. Floyd is currently nominated for the International Western Music Association’s male poet of the year, an award he won last year along with best cowboy poet CD of 2021.

Valerie Beard’s new album, “No Better Life,” is the No. 1 played poetry album according to the Western Way magazine charts. Floyd’s latest album, “Horse Tales and Cow Trails,” is currently in the No. 6 spot on the same chart.

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