In honor of Poetry Month, some poet friends have kindly consented to be interviewed for my weekly blog. Today’s featured guest is Lynn Kopelke of Washington State. I first saw Lynn in the 1980s, performing with an improv troupe at a club in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. Lynn portrayed Indiana Jones in a send-up of Raiders of the Lost Ark. We met many years later through cowboy music and poetry.
Lynn Kopelke-Poet, Artist, Actor
How did you become interested in cowboy poetry? For some years I saw myself as a modern day singing cowboy. Hauled a guitar around and sang Sons of the Pioneers and Marty Robbins songs. I finally realized there were a couple of things wrong with that picture. 1) I’m not a very good guitar player and B) I can’t sing, either. I wanted to keep performing so I started writing poetry.
What distinguishes cowboy poetry from other types of poetry? The hat and the subject matter.
What is your favorite memory from performing your poetry? Jam night at the local Saloon just up the road from me. There was a table of eight or so twenty-somethings finishing dinner and having a nice visit. You know, ignoring me… except for one guy. I remember getting a kick out of how hard he was trying not to get caught listening to me.
Any connection between your poems and your art? I have come up with several poems based on the pictures I’ve painted. Haven’t had as much luck when I’ve tried my hand at creating images from my poems.
What is the importance of cowboy poetry to the rest of the world? First off, I’d have to say that it can be a whole lot of fun. I think being able to share this very specific culture with others has value.
What other kind of writing do you do? Not much. I’ve got a song lyric or two somewhere.
Who are the poets/artists that most inspire you? As far as poets go, the name that comes to mind is Paul Zarzyski. I am amazed at his eloquence, humor, and passion. I was fascinated with Poe when I was a kid. When it comes to painters, I wanted to be a photo realist like James Bama. That didn’t happen but it did lead me towards the kind of stuff I am doing now.
What cowboy poetry/western art events are on your horizon? I’ll have my store set up this weekend at The Benton County Fairgrounds for the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Music Festival. In August, I’ll be poetizing in Lewistown, MT at the Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering and September will find me in Shoshone, ID for The Lost N Lava Cowboy Gathering.
Where can people find your poetry and art? I’ve got some signed and numbered prints for sale in the Arts Alive gallery in Enumclaw, WA and you can keep up with the paintings and my performance schedule at http://www.opencrownproductions.com/
Anything else you’d like people to know about you? I feel kinda’ funny talking about myself as an artist. I lost my warehouse job a few years back. I’ve been lucky enough to have the resources to spend these last few years painting pictures and writing a poem or two. Though, of the three or four life times I’ve been through up to now, this one is sure a lot of fun.
Thanks, Lynn! If you’re in southeastern Washington this weekend you can meet Lynn in person at the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering, Benton-Franklin Fairgrounds in Kennewick, WA: http://columbiarivercowboygathering.com/