Elko, Nevada - The Western Folklife Center and its 31st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering today announced the launch of the 2nd annual spoken word poetry competition on YouTube for poets ages 18-35. Expressing the Rural West: Poetry of the Next Generation is an effort to discover new artists who are carrying on the tradition of rural and cowboy poetry in the West.

“We know there are many poets in this age group who are writing and performing poetry,” explains David Roche, Executive Director of the Western Folklife Center, which produces the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. “We want to encourage them to participate in the contest and also come to the event and perform at open-mic sessions. They are the future of the tradition.”

Poets are invited to submit videos which include an artist introduction and do not exceed four minutes in length. Submissions may not contain curse words or explicit imagery and must be original compositions. Content should have a rural focus and poems should be performed and not read. Poets must be currently living in one of the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Poems will be judged by the public as well as by a committee of two professional poets and two staff members of the Western Folklife Center. There will be a winner of the public vote and a winner of the juried competition. The winner of the public vote will receive two free 3-Day Deluxe Passes to the 31st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and a free Gathering poster. The winner of the juried competition will be given a performance slot at the event and must be able to travel between January 28 to February 1, 2015. Travel and lodging will be paid by the Western Folklife Center.

Guidelines for the competition can be found on the Expressing the Rural West: Poetry of the Next Generation YouTube channel. Participants should tag their entries: “2015 Youth Poetry Competition.” Public judging will end on December 21 and our judges will select a winner by Dec. 23. Winners will be notified via email or on their YouTube video page.

About the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering: The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is an annual celebration of the ranching and rural West. Through poetry, music and stories, ranch people express the beauty and challenges of a life deeply connected to the earth and its bounty. Every year, thousands travel to rural Elko, Nevada, in the heart of winter, to listen, learn and share. At the 31st Gathering, more than 55 poets, musicians and musical groups from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Mexico will perform on seven stages at four different venues. The 31st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering takes place January 26-31, 2015, and will celebrate a little-known corner of Mexico—Baja California Sur—and its rich ranchero culture. During the week of the Gathering, Baja’s vaqueros will share with their American cowboy counterparts the traditional acoustic music, ranch cuisine, local art and craftwork, traditional lore and humor of their Californio roots.

The Western Folklife Center is dedicated to exploring, presenting and preserving the diverse and dynamic cultural heritage of the American West.