Sunday, May 23, 2010

Zarzyski

We come face to hard face with something
preserved here in ice, something familiar
we left for dead decades ago – our reflection
warm, alive, rousing, wild.
"The Make-Up of Ice"
Paul Zarzyski

He came out of Northern Wisconsin. Polish-Italian. Blue collar-blooded. A boy who’d memorized the names of trees, fish, fish hooks, birds, rocks, and the varieties of Polish and Italian stews. This Zarzyski kid loves stews: posole or ciappino. And pies! Pumpkin, Dutch Apple, Huckleberry. James Joyce said there’s the sound of words; the sound of words hitting against words, and the sound between words. Zarzyski knows this rattle dance. He loves the idea of concoction; food or words. He gives reverence to the names. They roll of his lips, down onto the page, and then back off his recitation tongue. Poetry can be holy; if you know the weight of the word. Zarzo knows. Hosanna.
Gary Snyder, in “What You Need to Know to be a Poet,” says a poet should know: “The names of trees and flowers and weeds, the names of stars, and the movements of the planets and the moon…real danger, gamble, and the edge of death…at least one kind of traditional magic.” Zarzyski grasps this; he knows the make-up of ice. This Polish kid, Zarzo, moved West and became a bronc rider. Then he wrote about THAT. Hanging off a bareback bronc; face-bound for a fence pole or a six inch square of bovine night-soil, he found out about “gamble and the edge of death” and how to create poetry out of raw-nerve experience. He got his Lit degree. Studied under Richard Hugo. Hid out in Great Falls, Montana, in a motel bar that has a shark tank behind it. Zarzyski. Rhymes with bar-whiskey. Means “bard” in Polish.
Forty years ago, a college professor said Bob Dylan killed off the need for American poetry; forever. Dylan created a transcendent mix of music and poetic-verse that made page-poetry a less important form; and there was no going backwards. Damn true. Mostly. There is a short list of great poets left in America. They are as scarce as good songwriters, painters and classical composers. Zarzyski is in that handful. He is our much needed Poet-Laureate. He climbed the mountain, saw the elephant, rode the bronc, and came back down to tell us about it - with fish hooks in his cowboy hat; posole and tequila dribbling down his Polack-Dago chin. Words growing wild.
And finally….his friend Joe Lear died in a bull riding - Zarzyski wrote one of the finest American poems of the last 100 years: “All This Way For the Short Ride:”
“It’s impossible, when dust
settling to the backs of large animals
makes a racket you can’t think in,
impossible to conceive that pure fear,
whether measured in degrees of cold
or heat, can both freeze
and incinerate so much
in mere seconds…”

Amen, Zarzo, amen.


Check out: www. http://www.paulzarzyski.com/
(Zarzyski rides the train with the Flatlanders and TR in September, see: www.rootsontherails.com or write trains@sover.net)

17 comments:

NathanaelDrumm0113家明 said...

路過--你好嗎..很棒的BLOG..............................................

John said...

Well done!

Jeff said...

I ran into Wylie Gustafson at the Western National Cutting Horse Finals last year. I had heard that Wylie was going to cut my favorite Tom Russell song “Blue Wing” and I asked him about that. As luck would have it, Wylie had just released his excellent CD “Hang-n-Rattle” and it was available for sale at one of the vendor booths. I bought a copy which Wylie graciously signed for me (“Jeff, Spur Wild! Wylie). In addition to the wonderful version of Blue Wing, several of the songs on this CD were Wylie/ Zarzyski cowrites. The best surprise was the hidden track on the CD, Paul reading his poem “Bob Dylan Bronc Song”:

I rode the bronc Whiskey Talks
In the same arena Dylan sang
Simple Twist Of Fate—
Bucking chutes on hallowed ground
Big gray stud-horse skyward bound
Where Bob in cowboy-hatted crown—
Rode hard his concert stage.

I rode the bronc Whiskey Talks
In the same arena Dylan sang
Like A Rolling Stone—
Key of C with jazzy licks
Stopwatch clicking all 8 ticks
My spur rowels reached for cosmic kicks—
Out in the Music Zone.

That’s just the first two verses (there are 14 more), maybe a verse for every song in Dylans set list that night he performed in the same arena that Mr Z rode the bronc Whiskey Talks…. Hell, I don’t know… It got me thinkin’ about cowboys like Paul and Wylie. Men steeped in the cowboy tradition, bronc riders, cutting horse riders, ranchers…. Real cowboys. But not so hard wired into the tradition that they can’t dig the cool musical stylings of a Mr Bob Dylan. Here’s what Wylie wrote for the liner notes of “Hang-n-Rattle:

“The times they are a-changin’. So is Western music.

Good art is born of a truthful heart. To deny the musical influences of my past would be dishonest. I grew up in an era of some of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll, country, blues, and folk music ever written. The words and melodies of those powerful songs reached outward on the airwaves, soaking into the sponge of my youth.

I remember happily singing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” as we drove 500 head of fresh mother cows through a spring snowstorm. The rollicking rhythms resonated above the remote plains of my northern Montana home with a timeless cadence that forever echoes in my cowboy soul.
The beat is in me; it’s gotta come out. Hope ya like the new songs. –Wylie”

Being a counterculture cowboy myself, I can really appreciate that. Wylie had previously cut a beautiful version of “Girl from the North Country” on an earlier album….Hell, he named one of his horses “Captain Beefheart”. Ian Tyson was on the Greenwich Village folk scene when a fresh Robert Zimmerman first arrived from Minnesota in the early ‘60’s… Ramblin’ Jack too… I have a theory I call the “Its Old Eons Fault Theory”. Suze Rotolo, (Dylans early NY girlfriend) has recently written a book. In it she claims that Ian Tyson was the first person to turn Bob onto a certain weed. Bob later turned The Beatles on. The Beatles turned the world on…. It’s Old Eons fault…..
Spur Wild my friends!

慧玲 said...

不能記住往事的,人注定要重蹈覆轍。 ..................................................

俊蘇宏 said...

與人相處不妨多用眼睛說話,多用嘴巴思考,...........................................................................

Abner Mull said...

Zarzyski's cool. Not much of a singer, though...

joven said...

hi, you have nice blog.. u can view also mine..http://akoniwares.blogspot.com

Donna said...

Tom--I've seen you perform several times, including last night at Jammin' Java. I've seen your art in Austin. I'm a musician and a writer but not a songwriter. (I have a blog called Learning to Pray here on blogger--donnaxander.blogspot.com.) I heard a story that I think would be a great Tom Russell song. Don't want to put it out here for all the world to see, possibly steal. You interested in hearing the idea? You can contact me through my blog or e-mail me at donna.xander@gmail.com.

Steve Bodio said...

Paul-- long time since we had drinks in the Golden Spur in Magdalena with Joel Bernstein. Ever get down to southern NM anymore?

Tom: a long time fan-- dare I assume you know Querencia or any of my other work? I think we know some of the same people including Paul. I am another eastern ethnic codger turned small- town westerner a long time ago, a bit north of you...

I have been playing Blood & Candle Smoke lately but curiously it has lead me back to Cowboys, especially "Tonight we ride" and "Short ride"-- which somehow gives synchronicity to this blog post...

AlysiaDraeger0417永瑞 said...

you always know the right thing to say!............................................................

judyrod said...

新手上路哦~請大家多支持(・ˍ・*) ........................................

adkinsra said...

支持好的blog~繼續加油~~.........................

佳梅 said...

看看blog放鬆一下,工作累死了.................................................................

彥霖 said...

blog不錯唷~我會常常來看的~加油~!!

will said...

I would just like you to hear this, because I admire your work, because you and I both admire Raymond Carver, and because I hold on to this naive belief from my childhood that my heroes and guides might one day hear what I'm doing. So here's my tribute to Ray: http://www.willstenberg.com/home-recordings/raymond-carvers-eyes/ - take it or leave it, but thanks, Mr. Russell, for the songs.

王邦鈺 said...

死亡是悲哀的,但活得不快樂更悲哀。.................................................................

GR Simmons said...

whoa...I was an "apprentice" Rodeo Clown with Barrel Man extraordinaire Bobby "Toad" Cook (inventor of the Original Motorcycle Wheel Lift - http://www.toadindustries.com/index.htm - but I digress) and met Joe Lear at the SupeRodeo in Edmonton in March, sometime in the mid-eighties I recall - Joe was killed next week in Spokane WA.

Now I sit in a cubicle, shame on me...