Steering with my Knees by Paul Zarzyski

Steering with my Knees, by Paul Zarzyski
If you know poetry in the West, you know the work of Paul Zarzyski. You know the electricity running through his verse, his punch-line crescendos and what he’s called the pugilistic puissance of his musical lines. And if you’ve heard him perform, you know that some of his most popular poems are those that have a sense of humor, that take quite seriously the notion of drawing out a smile. For the first time, Paul Zarzyski’s most popular “lite” poems are collected together under one cover. From “Whale in my Wallet” to “Benny Reynolds,” “Tumbleweed Munchies” to “Long Sagebrush Drives,” nothing entertains and provokes, amuses and inspires, quite like the king of the poet lariati. In addition to a hand-picked selection of previously-published work, Steering with my Knees also includes more than thirty never-before-seen original poems.

Book Information

Dimensions: 7.5 x 9.25
Price: $19.95 Paperback

About Paul Zarzyski

Paul ZarzyskiPaul Zarzyski, the recipient of the 2005 Governor’s Arts Award for Literature, has been spurring the words wild across the open range of the page and calling it “Poetry” for 40 years. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from The University of Montana, where he studied with Richard Hugo. Paul has been a featured performer at the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering for the past 26 years, has toured Australia and England, and has recited at the National Book, Folk, and Storytelling Festivals, The ProRodeo Hall of Fame, The Library of Congress, The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and with the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra. He was also featured in 1999 on Garrison Keillor’s A “Prairie Home Companion.”

His recent publications include 51: 30 Poems, 20 Lyrics, 1 Self-Interview (Bangtail Press, 2011), Wolf Tracks On The Welcome Mat (OreanaBooks, 2003), winner of The Spur Award from the Western Writers of America, Blue-Collar Light (Red Wing Press, 1998) and All This Way For The Short Ride (Museum of New Mexico Press,1996), which received The Western Heritage / Wrangler Award for Poetry from The National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. Two recordings—Words Growing Wild (1998) and The Glorious Commotion Of It All (2004)—both produced by Jim Rooney in Nashville, offer poems with accompaniment by Duane Eddy, John Hartford, Rich O’Brien, and other fine musicians. His latest (2007) brace of spoken-word CDs, Rock-n-Rowel and Collisions Of Reckless Love—produced by Open Path Music of San Jose, CA—are further imbued with Paul’s belief that poetry recited will, at times, blossom into song lyric sung. Accordingly, Paul has co-written lyrics with Ian Tyson, Tom Russell, Wylie Gustafson, David Wilkie of Cowboy Celtic, Don Edwards, and Betsy Hagar.

Born and raised in Hurley, Wisconsin, Paul has called Montana “home” since 1973. For more, please visit


“Mr. Zarzyski alternates between bluster and lyricism. For the former, he uses lopingly metered stanzas and punch-drunk, self-mythologizing bravura…But he proves equally adept at meditative free verse…”
— Megan Harlan, The New York Times Book Review

“In prose literature there are labels such as as ‘Kafka-esque’ and ‘Hemingway-esque.’ In cowboy poetry there is, or ought to be, ‘Zarzyski-esque’ No other ‘esques’ come close.”
­— Jesse Mullins, American Cowboy

“Paul Zarzyski’s poems will break your heart—and then turn right around and mend it. He looks pain squarely in the eye, takes its measure, and counters it with tenderness and wisdom, all in language that should be set to music…”
— Ed McClanahan, Author of The Natural Man


Monte Carlo Express—Post Office Box 258, 15.3 Miles Home

I’ve checked fence doing 80 in a low-rider
Chevrolet springing the borrow pit
like a pack mule that hates crossing
running water. The torture is too much
when a week’s worth of mail—stacked
beside me like a high school majorette
beckoning with her baton
decades back when this car was showroom new—
presses against me. I could never wait and still
can’t wait to open what’s personal. Steering
with my knees, jackknife gleaming in my lap,
the wheel tilted down full—The Monte, a roulette
ball blur hugging hot asphalt—I shuffle
through the stack and gamble
once again on 8 miles of 2-lane
straightaway. I Frisbee bills and all business
glassine-windowed envelopes,
in which we poets never receive checks,
over the suicide seat headrest, toss
junk mail to the floor-mat collage
on the shotgun side, stick love letters
between my teeth, and maybe I’m better off
not having tasted perfume
for years. Esquire, slicker than a hot plastic
sack of slimy grunion, slithers and slides
over, under, and between the seats
leaving its Stetson Cologne scent
like a madam’s tomcat mascot marking his turf
on two-for-one night
in a cowboy brothel. Ol’ Monte drifts
left across the double yellows on a hill
then right, into the shoulder brome, seed heads
whipping the wheel wells clean, dust swirling
in the side mirror, the Day-Glo
rubber fish in place of plastic Jesus
dashing for the stuntmen grasshoppers
suctioned to the windshield,
their front paws clasped in prayers
that must have saved us from the bridge
abutment already signed
with 4 white crosses for those who did not
because of booze, because of snooze, because of
tire or tie-rod act-of-God failure
of car or heart, or the piss-poor
penmanship of a good friend
loving me almost to cursive death with this letter.

For Rick and Carole DeMarinis