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Back in the Saddle and Ridin’ Tall

A Review of The Secret Life of Horses by Glen Enloe (America Star Books 2015)


With this latest collection of cowboy poems, The Secret Life of Horses, Enloe demonstrates that his love of western lore and talent for translating it into verse hasn’t waned one bit. In fact, the lead-off poem, from which the collection takes its title, is an ample demonstration of Enloe’s continuing mastery of the poetic craft:
“Looped rope moon-round hung on the horn
In drum-tight buckskin sun–
That paint horse still in full command
Each day when work was done.”
Any jangling rhymes or contorted meter one encounters in later selections are simply Enloe posing and having fun.

The poems range across the whole spectrum in theme from western legend and history to contemporary politics and culture, and in treatment from nostalgia to knee-slapping humor. “The Last Marlboro Man” laments the passing of an era and the surrendering of individual freedoms. “Burnin’ the Barn” concludes with the observation that “Memories keep your soul on the ground.” And a poignant question is left hovering in the air with the poem “What Would Gene Autry Done?” which delineates the decline of American culture.

Then a tongue-in-cheek rant from an “old-timer” is offered in “Smart Phone Cowpokes”:
“If there ain’t nothin’ more annoyin’ now
Then a cowboy discussin’ all his biz
On one of them there dang-blasted smart phones,
Then I reckon I don’t know what it is!”
Now that’s a sentiment with which many might concur–and they needn’t be old cowpokes! But one of the cleverest renderings, sure to elicit a good laugh, is the confession in “After I Became a Cowboy Poet” of why the speaker writes cowboy poetry and how it contrasts with more “academic” verse, closing with “Endin’ modern free verse constipation!”

As in his other works, however, an ache for what once was and is now fading away drifts throughout the pages. No doubt about it–the “cowboy” remains for Enloe the ultimate American hero and the unsurpassed symbol for what was once the nation’s greatest strength. For those with a hankering for the cowboy poetry genre, this is another collection not to be missed.

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Mark Scheel
Mark Scheel grew up in east-Kansas farm country. He attended both Kansas State University and The University of Kansas, majoring in psychology and English. Prior to writing full time he served overseas with the American Red Cross in Vietnam, Thailand, West Germany and England, taught at Emporia State University and was an information specialist with the Johnson County Library in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. His stories, articles and poems have appeared in numerous magazines including The Little Balkans Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Cincinnati Poetry Review, The Kansas City Star, Heritage of Kansas, Samisdat, and Poet as well as many sites online such as Common Ground News. His literary activities have also involved membership in The Kansas Authors Club, a seat on the board of directors for Potpourri Publications Company and an editorial position with Kansas City Voices magazine. He co-authored the book Of Youth and the River: the Mississippi Adventure of Raymond Kurtz, Sr., and his collection of stories and poems, A Backward View, was awarded the 1998 J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award. His most recent book is titled The Pebble: Life, Love, Politics and Geezer Wisdom.

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