Cowboy culture and the natural world in ‘Vistas of the West’


Vistas of the West

Foreword by Doris Daley, edited and curated by Larry Kapustka, Lorene Shyba, and Susan Kristoferson, 106 pgs, UpRoute (imprint of Durvile),, $30

A carefully curated collection of poems and artwork dedicated to Southern Alberta, Vistas of the West is a beauty. This anthology alternates between the distinct feel of cowboy culture and a profound connection with the natural world, often intertwined. Doris Daley’s foreword to the work encourages the reader to “Saddle up. Grab your fishing pole,” in an instant capturing this balance of cowhand and outdoors junkie.

On top of acknowledging Southern Alberta’s rancher culture and remarkable landscapes, Vistas of the West highlights Albertan Indigeneity. This compilation of poetry and artwork opens with a poem titled “The Land,” by the late Elizabeth Yakeleya, printed both in English and Gwich’in Dene. The idea that the land brings people closer to one another echoes throughout the anthology. Given the strong Indigenous presence in Alberta, I only wish that Vistas of the West had more heavily prioritized Indigenous voices. Of course, in presenting Alberta through skillful poetry and stunning artwork, the province gets idealized along the way.

As a Calgarian, I have dealt with my province’s bone-chilling winters and deceptive chinooks… but I have also relished in the beauty of the Albertan countryside. It was Alberta that taught me how to love the outdoors, and it was Alberta that helped make me who I am today. So, call me a biased Albertan, but I think Vistas of the West can get away with a little idealism.