Saturday, June 29, 2013

Gary Snyder

I've been reading Snyder for years.  I had the memorable pleasure of hearing him read at Lake Tahoe back in the 90's.

For the past six months I've been reading everything he's written.  I started by re-reading all of the books I already had (including RipRap and the Cold Mountain poems). Then I went on amazon and started buying his books.  Axe Handles is magnificent. Turtle Island won the Pulitzer prize for poetry in 1975.

It all goes well when I start my morning mindfully reading Snyder. He takes me back up into the mountains where I lived for so long.

There's a documentary about him on Netflix that I'm going to track down too.
I love doing this.  Reading through the body of work of a great writer is time well spent.

This poem in particular has been a touchstone of my writing life:

Hay for the Horses

by Gary Snyder

He had driven half the night
From far down San Joaquin
Through Mariposa, up the
Dangerous Mountain roads,
And pulled in at eight a.m.
With his big truckload of hay
        behind the barn.
With winch and ropes and hooks
We stacked the bales up clean
To splintery redwood rafters
High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa
Whirling through shingle-cracks of light,
Itch of haydust in the 
        sweaty shirt and shoes.
At lunchtime under Black oak
Out in the hot corral,
---The old mare nosing lunchpails,
Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds---
"I'm sixty-eight" he said,
"I first bucked hay when I was seventeen.
I thought, that day I started,
I sure would hate to do this all my life.
And dammit, that's just what
I've gone and done."

From Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems by Gary Snyder, published by North Point Press. Copyright © 1958, 1959, 1965 Gary Snyder. Used with permission. - See more at:

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