Cowboy Jam Session: Red Books. Blue Books. Old Books. New Books. | TSLN.com

Cowboy Jam Session: Red Books. Blue Books. Old Books. New Books.

by Jeri L. Dobrowski

As the school year came to a close, several of us from the area joined students at Lincoln Elementary for Local Authors’ Day. As published writers, we shared a bond with students who had recently completed their own books. We all understood selecting a topic, finding suitable artwork, and bringing it together for printing and binding.

To illustrate my presentation for the primary grades, I pulled a selection of books from the shelves in my home. Among them were what I consider to be my prettiest book, plainest book, most beloved book, oldest book – published in 1887, and newest book – released February 2011.

The latter had additional significance as the author had grown up in a bookless home. Despite having only a phone book to read, the writer’s father stirred a love for words in the boy as together they tramped and fished the Wisconsin woods. Coupled with an attentive ear that found beauty in ethnic names and the local vernacular and slang of a mining town, the boy went on to earn a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. Paul Zarzyski, the formerly bookless boy, is now one of this country’s most respected Western poets and an award-winning author.

The ploy worked perfectly. Most of the students’ eyes widened; some mouths dropped as they tried to envision their homes without books. Having made a single copy of their project, one little first grade girl couldn’t fathom why Zarzyski wouldn’t have kept the book I was holding for all to see. Bless her heart, she didn’t understand that writers have lots of copies made and that they are quite happy when they sell.

The teachable moment sprang from Zarzyski’s latest book entitled 51: 30 Poems, 20 Lyrics, 1 Self-Interview (Bangtail Press, 2011, 260 pages, paperback ISBN 978-0982860113). I knew he had been working on it for several years. In January, he sat across from me on the plane from Salt Lake City to Elko, NE, for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, studying a long-awaited proof copy.

A recipient of the Montana Governor’s Arts Award for Literature and a Wrangler Western Heritage Award Winner from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Zarzyski placed the probing self-interview after the poems and lyrics. I confess, I read the interview first. I reasoned that reading the prose would help me better understand the man behind the poetry and songs. It was like eating dessert first. Satisfied, but feeling a bit guilty, I then read the poems and lyrics as presented.

Recommended Stories For You

Zarzyski’s works are rich and revealing, sweet and sorrowful, playful and poignant. Fans will recognize some of their favorites and find new pieces to savor. If you’re new to his style, take small bites and chew slowly.

51: 30 Poems, 20 Lyrics, 1 Self-Interview is available at Amazon.com and through other booksellers. For more on Zarzyski, go to http://www.paulzarzyski.com or http://www.cowboypoetry.com/paulzarzyski.htm.

Another new poetry book of note is by Utah writer Rod Miller: Things a Cowboy Sees and other poems (Port Yonder Press, June 1, 2011, 98 pages, paperback ISBN 978-1935600077). Containing just shy of 50 pieces, Miller says the collection features some of his best attempts at using poetic form: “From the lighthearted to the contemplative, traditional to experimental, formal to unstructured, it is a representative travelogue of my journey through cowboy and Western poetry.”

It is dedicated to Jesse Mullins, founding editor of American Cowboy, whom Miller credits as “the editor who first saw fit to apply ink to my poetry.” Since then, more than 100 of his poems have appeared in print, many in American Cowboy, Western Horseman, and RANGE. Indeed, Miller is one of the genre’s most published and respected writers.

A graduate of Utah State University, Miller earned a journalism degree while riding broncs for the college rodeo team. Preferring to focus his time on writing, reading, and learning rather than memorizing, you’ll not find him on stage at a gathering. He will be seated in the audience. The introduction does a fine job of explaining cowboy poetry’s origins and evolution and Miller’s association with the art form. Other essays, as well as a generous sampling of his poetry can be found at http://www.cowboypoetry.com/rm.htm.

Things a Cowboy Sees is available both in print and in a Kindle edition at Amazon.com. It is also available from the author. Send $11.95 to Rod Miller, 1665 East Julho Street, Sandy UT 84093. For additional titles by Miller, including the historical novel The Assassination of Governor Boggs released May 9, 2011, go to http://www.writerrodmiller.com/.

As the school year came to a close, several of us from the area joined students at Lincoln Elementary for Local Authors’ Day. As published writers, we shared a bond with students who had recently completed their own books. We all understood selecting a topic, finding suitable artwork, and bringing it together for printing and binding.

To illustrate my presentation for the primary grades, I pulled a selection of books from the shelves in my home. Among them were what I consider to be my prettiest book, plainest book, most beloved book, oldest book – published in 1887, and newest book – released February 2011.

The latter had additional significance as the author had grown up in a bookless home. Despite having only a phone book to read, the writer’s father stirred a love for words in the boy as together they tramped and fished the Wisconsin woods. Coupled with an attentive ear that found beauty in ethnic names and the local vernacular and slang of a mining town, the boy went on to earn a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. Paul Zarzyski, the formerly bookless boy, is now one of this country’s most respected Western poets and an award-winning author.

The ploy worked perfectly. Most of the students’ eyes widened; some mouths dropped as they tried to envision their homes without books. Having made a single copy of their project, one little first grade girl couldn’t fathom why Zarzyski wouldn’t have kept the book I was holding for all to see. Bless her heart, she didn’t understand that writers have lots of copies made and that they are quite happy when they sell.

The teachable moment sprang from Zarzyski’s latest book entitled 51: 30 Poems, 20 Lyrics, 1 Self-Interview (Bangtail Press, 2011, 260 pages, paperback ISBN 978-0982860113). I knew he had been working on it for several years. In January, he sat across from me on the plane from Salt Lake City to Elko, NE, for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, studying a long-awaited proof copy.

A recipient of the Montana Governor’s Arts Award for Literature and a Wrangler Western Heritage Award Winner from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Zarzyski placed the probing self-interview after the poems and lyrics. I confess, I read the interview first. I reasoned that reading the prose would help me better understand the man behind the poetry and songs. It was like eating dessert first. Satisfied, but feeling a bit guilty, I then read the poems and lyrics as presented.

Zarzyski’s works are rich and revealing, sweet and sorrowful, playful and poignant. Fans will recognize some of their favorites and find new pieces to savor. If you’re new to his style, take small bites and chew slowly.

51: 30 Poems, 20 Lyrics, 1 Self-Interview is available at Amazon.com and through other booksellers. For more on Zarzyski, go to http://www.paulzarzyski.com or http://www.cowboypoetry.com/paulzarzyski.htm.

Another new poetry book of note is by Utah writer Rod Miller: Things a Cowboy Sees and other poems (Port Yonder Press, June 1, 2011, 98 pages, paperback ISBN 978-1935600077). Containing just shy of 50 pieces, Miller says the collection features some of his best attempts at using poetic form: “From the lighthearted to the contemplative, traditional to experimental, formal to unstructured, it is a representative travelogue of my journey through cowboy and Western poetry.”

It is dedicated to Jesse Mullins, founding editor of American Cowboy, whom Miller credits as “the editor who first saw fit to apply ink to my poetry.” Since then, more than 100 of his poems have appeared in print, many in American Cowboy, Western Horseman, and RANGE. Indeed, Miller is one of the genre’s most published and respected writers.

A graduate of Utah State University, Miller earned a journalism degree while riding broncs for the college rodeo team. Preferring to focus his time on writing, reading, and learning rather than memorizing, you’ll not find him on stage at a gathering. He will be seated in the audience. The introduction does a fine job of explaining cowboy poetry’s origins and evolution and Miller’s association with the art form. Other essays, as well as a generous sampling of his poetry can be found at http://www.cowboypoetry.com/rm.htm.

Things a Cowboy Sees is available both in print and in a Kindle edition at Amazon.com. It is also available from the author. Send $11.95 to Rod Miller, 1665 East Julho Street, Sandy UT 84093. For additional titles by Miller, including the historical novel The Assassination of Governor Boggs released May 9, 2011, go to http://www.writerrodmiller.com/.

Go back to article