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The University of Montana -Western February 16, 200! Recipient of 2005 Governor's Arts Award to perform at UM-Western Paul Zarzyski, Recipient o f 2005 Governor's Arts Award for Literature. By Denise McRea Pull your hat down tight, Dillon, and take a deep seat. The University of Mon tana-Western is about to open the gate on Paul Zarzyski. Paul Zarzyski, renowned Montana poet, or as he puts it, “the only Polish Hobo Rodeo Poet from Manchester, Montana, so far,” will perform his poetry on Friday, February 25 at 7:30 pm in the Lewis and Clark Room on the UM-Westem campus. This event is brought to you by the UM- Westem English Department, Rodeo Club, and Student Senate. There is no admission charge. A reception for Mr. Zarzyski will follow the performance. Paul Zarzyski, who has “one foot in the literati field, and one hoof in the lariati arena” has successfully blended his two passions- poetry and rodeo- into a body of work that has something to offer any audience. A recipient of the 2005 Governor’s Arts Award for Literature, Zarzyski has won awards from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, and the Western Writers of America. His books include “Long Way Around for the Short Ride: Rough Stock Sonnets, 1971- 1996” and his more recent “Wolf Tracks on the Welcome Mat.” He has also collabo rated on song lyrics with Ian Tyson ( Jerry Ambler, Rodeo Road) and Don Edwards (West of the Round Corral). Paul Zarzyski received his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from The University of Montana-Missoula, where he studied with Richard Hugo. He is also a graduate of “the College of Buckaroo Knowledge and Rank Rough Stock Knocks,” having ridden in the Montana and Pro- Rodeo circuits. In a telephone interview on February 2, Mr. Zarzyski answered these questions: Q. Your poetry isn’t the traditional rhyme and metered verse usually associated with cowboy poetry. What can your audience expect, and what does your poetry offer to a mixed audience? A. “There will be some classic and some contemporary rhyme and metered verse, as well as rodeo free verse. Audiences have deemed it worthy of a place in the cowboy poetry renaissance, which began in Elko in 1985.1 just returned from the Gathering in Elko, my 19lh consecutive, and you could not hand pick a more mixed audience. Audience members from urban America love cowboy poetry as much as rural America does. Why? We are first and fore most this: ‘human being rough stock riders forked on the roughest bronc ever run under anybody-Earth-trying to make it to the welcome whistle.’ So, it isn’t just cowboy poetry. It is human being poetry. I am a very physical writer. I treat my typewriter like a shoeing anvil. That energy comes out.” Q. Why do you write poetry? What can you do in poetry that you can’t do in other types of writing? A. “Back in the ‘60s I discovered the poem format. Poetry has the power to shine the most profound and poignant light on the moment in one’s life. It is not a story - Once upon a time...but a moment. Poetry is a concentrated body of language, a cut to the chase. It comes, most of all kinds of writing, closest to the universal language and rhythms of music. Its rhythm and locu tions are like spur licks. I live for the line, just as I used to live for the 8 second ride.” Q. The 8 second ride- that brings us to rodeo. How did a kid from Wisconsin get into rodeo? A. “The first time I witnessed it up close and personal was in Townsend, Montana. In the spring of ’74 there was the KO rodeo at the Oral Zumwalt rodeo grounds. Reg Kessler was the stock contractor. I had my camera with me and somehow weaseled my way back behind the chutes. Now, I grew up in a tough place- rural Wisconsin- and I had worked on farms and with live stock. But when I saw those bareback broncs, I fell in love. It felt familiar. There was no long thought process involved in my decision to ride broncs. Just ‘I’m going to do this.’ I was 22-23 years old at the time, and paid some pretty severe appren tice dues. I was as green a gunsel as ever set foot in a rodeo arena. I epitomized green. But there is such a thing as western hospi tality, and Pat and Sonny Linger, and Joe Alexander were my mentors and friends. I know they considered it the eighth wonder of the world if this guy ever stuck a bronc, but they never gave up on me. It was perseverance, grit, and dumb luck that got me into rodeo. I spent about twelve years rodeoing. I had a couple of good years, and made it to the Montana Pro-Rodeo Sum mer Circuit. Q. Perseverance and grit seem to apply to writing poetry, too. Any advice for aspiring poets? A. “I learned from Richard Hugo that a good teacher is like a good coach. You have to find a way to bring a person’s athletic or poetic prowess to the surface. In a very motivational way, you have to con vince each poet that their life is worthy o poetry. Each poet brings his or her own per spective and sensibilities to writing, thei uniqueness. Your own life is the material o art. Have fun with the words. Therein lie the secret. I just love hanging around witl the lingo. Make every line contribute to th< music of the poetry.” Q. Why do you think the tradition o cowboy poetry continues? A. “The answer to this would take a whole years’ worth of newspapers to answer. Cow boy poetry is multifaceted. It is occupational Cowboy is also a verb, you know. Cowbo' poetry is quintessentially American poetry with an incredibly rich history, and a riel reservoir of language. People embrace th» authenticity of it all. Cowboy poetry is con nected to the land. People come to gather ings and I hear them say ‘This was my firs gathering, but it isn’t going to be my last.' / gathering is a Cowpoke Woodstock, a har monious couple of hours. Our poems are not only entertaining. Cow boy poetry is in the business of educating People come to a gathering and hear ou stories and they go away with an apprecia tion for our culture, history, and legacy. It i: a crusade to keep the cowboy ranching Wes alive. It is us making our last stand. We, a* Westerners, are important, and cowboy po etry is a way of telling why our way of life i: worth keeping.” Q. Which of your poems is your favorite' A. “It changes with my mood. Depend: on the day. I am very fond of ‘Words Grow ing Wild in the Woods.’ It is a very persona poem. My father, a tough old guy, used tc take me hunting and fishing with him. He’c tell me the names of trees, plants, flowers Those names, spoken in my father’s voice there in the woods where they actually lived well, I didn’t know it at the time, but that i: when I began to think poetically. Another ‘One Sweet Evening Just This Year’ ex presses my great hope for the cowboy West. Q. Last, and maybe most important- wh} should someone come and spend time at thi performance? A. “Cowboy poetry is a catalyst for th« breaking down of cultural barriers. It bring: people together harmoniously. It is Big Medi cine.”