—Poet / Lyricist / Essayist / Humorist /
Philosopher / Teacher / Student / Humanist /
Freethinker, Ecofreak, “Extreme Creativist”—
casts his net over infinities of word-notes spinning
through the cosmos as he captures the essence of
love, laughter, true grit, and the music of life!
Photo by Kenton Rowe
Paul Zarzyski has written for the past forty to sixty years in the state of “perpetual ars poetica metamorphosis.” After receiving a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing—under the tutelage of Richard Hugo and Madeline DeFrees—from the University of Montana, he incurred a "close poetic encounter of the otherworldly kind" with rodeo, bareback bronc riding, a passion that seeped osmotically into his work. His first full collection, The Make-Up of Ice (University of Georgia Press, 1984) is divided into two sections, the opener offering poems set in Montana, while the closer features poems set in his childhood home ground, Hurley, Wisconsin. That pull between the West and Midwest continues to this day, as he returns often to the very same home (albeit in the sad absence of his parents) to write in the very same kitchen where his mom “dribbled just a little" coffee into his baby bottle, she confessed with laughter decades later, after her infant son reached for her cup and vigorously tugged at it with glee.
In light of this early affinity for caffeine sipped in the midst of his mother’s symphonic Italian nursery rhyme lilts, in the midst of his Polish iron-ore-miner father’s animated storytelling patina’d in visceral vernacular, Paul “had little choice but to become a blue-collar poet.” As such, and in response to the poems triggered by his 15 years on the rodeo circuit, his work has been embraced by the Cowboy Poetry folk tradition—yup, "writing and riding, wild horses and wild verses, literati and lariati. Or, as Novelist James Welch wrote, "Paul Zarzyski is a man of many hats—fisherman, bronc rider, son, worker, lover. From the white heat of his rodeo arenas to the calm lakes and clear streams of all our lives, this poet captures experience the way a bear goes after salmon—with confidence and patience, with intensity and purpose…."
Today, beneath his favorite of those “many hats,” Paul is focused most pensively, although every bit as viscerally/passionately, on the closing seconds of his lifetime’s toughest ride, aboard this spinning bucking horse orb named Planet Earth, a ride he hopes to finish, as an “extreme creativist,” on a high, wide, and handsome galactic note out into what he calls “the Ol’ Cowpoke Cosmos, the Musical Universe, Creativity’s Infinities." Writing more and more about his ecological concerns for the remaining wilds of our beloved Mother Ship and his affections for the intricacies and mysteries of Her diverse life forms, "our fellow soulful beings,” Paul relinquishes all titles and stereotypes associated with genre—folk art to fine art—except for one: Human Being Poet of, and humbled by, “The Glorious Commotion of it All."
Photo by cplani
THE DAY THE WAR BEGAN
Written on January 16, 1991 during the Operation Desert Storm U.S.-led offensive against Iraq, and relived today, February 24, 2022, as I fed the horses on this cold wintry Montana morning 31 years later.
First published in I Am Not A Cowboy—Dry Crik Press, 1995
Recorded on Collisions of Reckless Love—Open Path Music, 2006