Cover image for The Gary Snyder reader : prose, poetry, and translations, 1952-1998.
The Gary Snyder reader : prose, poetry, and translations, 1952-1998.
Snyder, Gary, 1930-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Works. Selections. 1999
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Counterpoint, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxii, 617 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3569.N88 A6 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A compendium of writing by the contemporary American poet, environmental activist, and Zen Buddhist. The poems represent all his stages from the Beat movement to recent achievements, including translations from Japanese and Chinese not published before. Among the prose selections are letters, travel journals, meditations on Buddhism, commentary on communal living, and notes from the lookout tower on Sourdough Mountain.

Author Notes

Gary Snyder was born in San Francisco, California on May 8, 1930. He received a B.A. in anthropology at Reed College in 1951. Between working as a logger, a trail-crew member, and a seaman on a Pacific tanker, he was associated with Beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso and studied in a Zen monastery in Japan.

He wrote numerous books of poetry and prose including Danger on Peaks, Mountains and Rivers Without End, No Nature: New and Selected Poems, The Practice of the Wild, Regarding Wave, and Myths and Texts. He received an American Book Award for Axe Handles and the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for Turtle Island. He has also received an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, the Bollingen Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize, the Levinson Prize from Poetry, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and the Shelley Memorial Award. In 2012, he received the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement by the Academy of American Poets.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Introducing this generous selection of the most appealing of the Beat writers, Jim Dodge says he changed his college major from fisheries management to "interdisciplinary studies, incorporating biology, English, and journalism" after reading Snyder's "Hay for the Horses." That early poem, from Riprap (1959), is Snyder's "Stopping By Woods" or "Richard Cory" --the one of his poems that, once read, is never forgotten, perhaps because, like Frost's and Robinson's chestnuts, it makes a statement about life's meaning, albeit a much more sanguine one than the great New Englanders' poems make. It appears in Dodge's remarks and again among the other poems in the collection. May it change other lives, though if one is resistant to poetry, there is twice as much of Snyder's prose here, concerned with nature, environmental consciousness, mythology, and, underlying it all, Buddhism, of which Snyder has long been a major practical Western exponent. Snyder is a man who lives healthily in the world, and any of his work is likely to change lives. --Ray Olson

Library Journal Review

Snyder, winner of the 1975 Pulitzer prize for poetry for Turtle Island, has gathered 46 years of writing into one massive volume, drawing on previously published as well as unpublished material. He includes poetry, essays, letters, journals from his travels, meditations, and notes that reflect the philosophical and cultural evolution of his thoughtsÄproducing a collection that entertains, educates, and provokes. Snyder shares his interest in Eastern literature and culture, his love for the environment, and his views on humanity and society. A chronology of Snyder's life is helpful in placing his cycle of literary events within the context of his life. This comprehensive body of work has captured his spirit and intent. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries.ÄCynde Bloom Lahey, New Canaan Lib., CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Excerpt Prose Lookout's Journal A. Crater Mountain 22 June 52   Marblemount Ranger Station                Skagit District, Mt. Baker National Forest Hitchhiked here, long valley of the Skagit. Old cars parked in the weeds, little houses in fields of bracken. A few cows, in stumpland. Ate at the "parkway café" real lemon in the pie             "--why don't you get a jukebox in here"             "--the man said we weren't important enough" * * * 28 June Blackie Burns: "28 years ago you could find a good place to fish. GREEDY & SELFISH        NO RESPECT FOR THE   LAND        tin cans, beer bottles, dirty dishes        a shit within a foot of the bed one sonuvabitch out of fifty fishguts in the creek the door left open for the bear. If you're takin forestry fellas keep away from the recreation side of it: first couple months you see the women you say             `there's a cute little number' the next three months it's only another woman after that you see one coming out of the can             & wonder if she's just shit on the floor ought to use pit toilets" * * * Granite creek Guard station 9 July the boulder in the creek never moves            the water is always falling         together! A ramshackle little cabin built by Frank Beebe the miner. Two days walk to here from roadhead.             arts of the Japanese: moon-watching                                   insect-hearing Reading the sutra of Hui Nêng. one does not need universities and libraries one need be alive to what is about saying "I don't care" * * * 11 July cut fresh rhubarb by the bank the creek is going down last night caught a trout today climbed to the summit of Crater Mountain and back high and barren: flowers I don't recognize ptarmigan and chicks, feigning the broken wing. Baxter: "Men are funny, once I loved a girl so bad it hurt, but I drove her away. She was throwing herself at me--and four months later she married another fellow." A doe in the trail, unafraid. A strange man walking south A boy from Marblemount with buckteeth, learning machine shop. * * * Crater Mountain Elevation: 8049 feet 23 July Really wretched weather for three days now--wind, hail, sleet, snow; the FM transmitter is broken / rather the receiver is / what can be done?    Even here, cold foggy rocky place, there's life--4 ptarmigan by the A-frame, cony by the trail to the snowbank. hit my head on the lamp, the shutters fall, the radio quits, the kerosene stove won't stop, the wood stove won't start, my fingers are too numb to write. & this is mid-July. At least I have energy enough to read science-fiction. One has to go to bed fully clothed. * * * The stove burning wet wood--windows misted over giving the blank white light of shoji. Outside wind blows, no visibility. I'm filthy with no prospect of cleaning up. (Must learn yoga-system of Patanjali--) * * * Crater Shan 28 July     Down for a new radio, to Ross Lake, and back up. Three days walking. Strange how unmoved this place leaves one; neither articulate nor worshipful; rather the pressing need to look within and adjust the mechanism of perception. A dead sharp-shinned hawk, blown by the wind against the lookout. Fierce compact little bird with a square head. --If one wished to write poetry of nature, where an audience? Must come from the very conflict of an attempt to articulate the vision poetry & nature in our time. (reject the human; but the tension of human events, brutal and tragic, against a nonhuman background? like Jeffers?) * * * Pair of eagles soaring over Devil's Creek canyon * * * 31 July This morning:               floating face down in the water bucket         a drowned mouse. "Were it not for Kuan Chung, we should be wearing our hair unbound and our clothes buttoning on the left side" A man should stir himself with poetry Stand firm in ritual Complete himself in music                          Lun Yü * * * Comparing the panoramic Lookout View photo dated 8 August 1935: with the present view. Same snowpatches; same shapes. Year after year; snow piling up and melting. "By God" quod he, "for pleynly, at a word Thy drasty ryming is not worth a tord." * * * Crater Shan 3 August How pleasant to squat in the sun Jockstrap & zoris form--leaving things out at the right spot ellipse, is emptiness                       these ice-scoured valleys                       swarming with plants      "I am the Queen Bee!                          Follow Me!" * * * Or having a wife and baby,    living close to the ocean, with skills for    gathering food. QUEBEC DELTA 04 BLACK Higgins to Pugh (over)    "the wind comes out of the east    or northeast,    the chimney smokes all over the room.    the wind comes out of the west;    the fire burns clean." Higgins L.O. reads the news:    "flying saucer with a revolving black band    drouth in the south. Are other worlds watching us?" The rock alive, not barren.    flowers lichen pinus albicaulis chipmunks mice even grass. --first I turn on the radio --then make tea & eat breakfast --study Chinese until eleven --make lunch, go chop snow to melt for water, read Chaucer in the early afternoon. "Is this real Is this real This life I am living?"               --Tlingit or Haida song * * * "Hidden Lake to Sourdough" --"This is Sourdough" --"Whatcha doing over there?" --"Readin some old magazines             they had over here." * * * 6 August     Clouds above and below, but I can see Kulshan, Mt. Terror, Shuksan; they blow over the ridge between here and Three-Fingered Jack, fill up the valleys. The Buckner Boston Peak ridge is clear.     What happens all winter; the wind driving snow; clouds--wind, and mountains--repeating this is what always happens here, and the photograph of a young female torso hung in the lookout window, in the foreground. Natural against natural, beauty.         two butterflies a chilly clump of mountain             flowers. zazen non-life. An art: mountain-watching. leaning in the doorway whistling          a chipmunk popped out               listening * * * 9 August Sourdough: Jack, do you know if a fly is an electrical conductor? (over) Desolation: A fly? Are you still trying to electrocute flies? (over) Sourdough: Yeah I can make em twitch a little. I got five number    six batteries on it (over) Desolation: I don't know, Shubert, keep trying. Desolation clear. * * * 10 August First wrote a haiku and painted a haiga for it; then repaired the Om Mani Padme Hum prayer flag, then constructed a stone platform, then shaved down a shake and painted a zenga on it, then studied the lesson.       a butterfly             scared up from its flower caught by the wind and swept over the cliffs                                      SCREE Vaux Swifts: in great numbers, flying before the storm, arcing so close that the sharp wing-whistle is heard.                          "The sravaka disciplined in Tao, enlightened, but on the wrong path." summer,              on the west slopes creek beds are brushy              north-faces of ridges, steep and                    covered late with snow slides and old burns on dry hills. (In San Francisco: I live on the Montgomery Street drainage--at the top of a long scree slope just below a cliff.) * * * sitting in the sun in the doorway picking my teeth with a broomstraw listening to the buzz of the flies. (Continues...) Poetry FROM Riprap Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout Down valley a smoke haze Three days heat, after five days rain Pitch glows on the fir-cones Across rocks and meadows Swarms of new flies. I cannot remember things I once read A few friends, but they are in cities. Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup Looking down for miles Through high still air. Piute Creek One granite ridge A tree, would be enough Or even a rock, a small creek, A bark shred in a pool. Hill beyond hill, folded and twisted Tough trees crammed In thin stone fractures A huge moon on it all, is too much. The mind wanders. A million Summers, night air still and the rocks Warm. Sky over endless mountains. All the junk that goes with being human Drops away, hard rock wavers Even the heavy present seems to fail This bubble of a heart. Words and books Like a small creek off a high ledge Gone in the dry air. A clear, attentive mind Has no meaning but that Which sees is truly seen. No one loves rock, yet we are here. Night chills. A flick In the moonlight Slips into Juniper shadow: Back there unseen Cold proud eyes Of Cougar or Coyote Watch me rise and go. Milton by Firelight Piute Creek, August 1955 "O hell, what do mine eyes            with grief behold?" Working with an old Singlejack miner, who can sense The vein and cleavage In the very guts of rock, can Blast granite, build Switchbacks that last for years Under the beat of snow, thaw, mule-hooves. What use, Milton, a silly story Of our lost general parents,           eaters of fruit? The Indian, the chainsaw boy, And a string of six mules Came riding down to camp Hungry for tomatoes and green apples. Sleeping in saddle-blankets Under a bright night-sky Han River slantwise by morning. Jays squall Coffee boils In ten thousand years the Sierras Will be dry and dead, home of the scorpion. Ice-scratched slabs and bent trees. No paradise, no fall, Only the weathering land The wheeling sky, Man, with his Satan Scouring the chaos of the mind. Oh Hell! Fire down Too dark to read, miles from a road The bell-mare clangs in the meadow That packed dirt for a fill-in Scrambling through loose rocks On an old trail All of a summer's day Above Pate Valley We finished clearing the last Section of trail by noon, High on the ridge-side Two thousand feet above the creek Reached the pass, went on Beyond the white pine groves, Granite shoulders, to a small Green meadow watered by the snow, Edged with Aspen--sun Straight high and blazing But the air was cool. Ate a cold fried trout in the Trembling shadows. I spied A glitter, and found a flake Black volcanic glass--obsidian-- By a flower. Hands and knees Pushing the Bear grass, thousands Of arrowhead leavings over a Hundred yards. Not one good Head, just razor flakes On a hill snowed all but summer, A land of fat summer deer, They came to camp. On their Own trails. I followed my own Trail here. Picked up the cold-drill, Pick, singlejack, and sack Of dynamite. Ten thousand years. Hay for the Horses 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." Riprap Lay down these words Before your mind like rocks.            placed solid, by hands In choice of place, set Before the body of the mind            in space and time: Solidity of bark, leaf, or wall            riprap of things: Cobble of milky way,            straying planets, These poems, people,            lost ponies with Dragging saddles            and rocky sure-foot trails. The worlds like an endless            four-dimensional Game of Go .            ants and pebbles In the thin loam, each rock a word            a creek-washed stone Granite: ingrained            with torment of fire and weight Crystal and sediment linked hot            all change, in thoughts, As well as things. Copyright (c) 1999 Gary Snyder. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Jim Dodge
Forewordp. xv
Author's Notep. xxi
from Earth House Hold
Lookout's Journalp. 5
Japan First Time Aroundp. 24
Spring Sesshin at Shokoku-jip. 34
Buddhism and the Possibilities of a Planetary Culturep. 41
Passage to More Than Indiap. 44
Poetry and the Primitivep. 52
Suwa-no-se Island and the Banyan Ashramp. 62
from He Who Hunted Birds in His Father's Village
The Mythp. 71
Function of the Mythp. 75
from The Real Work
The East West Interviewp. 91
from Passage Through India
The Cambodgep. 129
Pondicherryp. 135
Khajurahop. 139
Dharamshalap. 141
Dalai Lamap. 144
to Philip Whalen (1954-1961)p. 149
to Will Petersen (1957-1958)p. 160
from The Practice of the Wild
The Etiquette of Freedomp. 167
The Place, the Region, and the Commonsp. 183
Blue Mountains Constantly Walkingp. 200
Ancient Forests of the Far Westp. 214
Gracep. 235
from A Place in Space
Smokey the Bear Sutrap. 241
Four Changes, with a Postscriptp. 245
"Energy Is Eternal Delight"p. 254
Unnatural Writingp. 257
The Porous Worldp. 263
Coming into the Watershedp. 267
Kitkitdizze: A Node in the Netp. 277
from The Great Clod Project
"Wild" in Chinap. 287
Walls Within Wallsp. 296
The Brushp. 313
The Paris Review Interviewp. 319
Selections from Journals
Japan, "Of All the Wild Sakura"p. 341
Australiap. 349
Ladakhp. 353
Botswana and Zimbabwep. 360
Uncollected Essays
Walking the Great Ridge Omine on the Womb-Diamond Trailp. 371
Walking Downtown Nahap. 383
Is Nature Real?p. 387
Entering the Fiftieth Milleniump. 390
from Riprap
Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookoutp. 399
Piure Creekp. 400
Milton by Firelightp. 401
Above Pate Valleyp. 402
Hay for the Horsesp. 403
Riprapp. 404
from Myths and Texts
from "Logging"
"The Morning Star Is Not a Star"p. 407
"But Ye Shall Destroy Their Altars"p. 407
"Lodgepole Pine: The Wonderful Reproductive"p. 408
"Each Dawn Is Clear"p. 409
"The Groves Are Down"p. 410
"Lodgepole"p. 410
from "Hunting"
First Shaman Songp. 411
This Poem Is for Bearp. 412
This Poem Is for Deerp. 413
"Sealion, Salmon, Offshore--"p. 415
"Flung from Demonic Wombs"p. 416
"How Rare to Be Born a Human Being!"p. 416
from "Burning"
Maudgalyayana Saw Hellp. 417
John Muir on Mt. Ritterp. 418
Amitabha's Vowp. 419
"Spikes of New Smell Driven up Nostrils"p. 419
"Stone-flake and Salmon"p. 421
"'Wash Me on Home, Mama'"p. 422
from The Back Country
A Berry Feastp. 425
The Springp. 429
A Walkp. 430
Burning the Small Deadp. 431
Foxtail Pinep. 432
Oilp. 433
After Workp. 434
Four Poems for Robinp. 435
Work to Do Toward Townp. 437
The Manichaensp. 438
Artemisp. 439
Mother of the Buddhasp. 440
Nature Green Shitp. 441
Twelve Hours Out of New Yorkp. 442
Hop, Skip, and Jumpp. 443
Through the Smoke Holep. 444
Nanao Knowsp. 446
from Regarding Wave
Wavep. 449
In the House of the Rising Sunp. 450
Song of the Tastep. 451
Kyoto Born in Spring Songp. 452
Everybody Lying on Their Stomachs, Head Toward the Candle, Reading, Sleeping, Drawingp. 453
Shark Meatp. 454
The Bed in the Skyp. 455
Regarding Wavep. 456
Revolution in the Revolution in the Revolutionp. 457
Sours of the Hillsp. 458
To Firep. 459
Lovep. 460
Meeting the Mountainsp. 461
Long Hairp. 462
from Turtle Island
Withoutp. 465
I Went Into the Maverick Barp. 466
No Matter, Never Mindp. 467
The Bathp. 468
Control Burnp. 471
Prayer for the Great Familyp. 472
Sourcep. 473
For Nothingp. 474
The Eggp. 475
Pine Tree Topsp. 476
By Frazier Creek Fallsp. 477
Mother Earth: Her Whalesp. 478
Why Log Truck Drivers Rise Earlier Than Students of Zenp. 480
"One Should Not Talk to a Skilled Hunter About What Is Forbidden by the Buddha"p. 481
Magpie's Songp. 482
O Watersp. 483
For the Childrenp. 484
As for Poetsp. 485
from Axe Handles
Axe Handlesp. 489
River in the Valleyp. 490
Changing Diapersp. 491
Walking Through Myoshin-jip. 492
Working on the '58 Willys Pickupp. 493
For/From Lewp. 494
Getting in the Woodp. 495
True Nightp. 496
24:IV:40075, 3:30PMp. 498
Dillingham, Alaska, the Willow Tree Barp. 499
Breastsp. 500
Old Woman Naturep. 501
The Canyon Wrenp. 502
For Allp. 504
from Left Out in the Rain
Poem Left in Sourdough Mountain Lookoutp. 507
Seeing the Oxp. 507
Longitude 170 West, Latitude 35 Northp. 508
For Examplep. 509
English Lessons at the Boiler Companyp. 510
Farewell to Burning Islandp. 510
No Shoes No Shirt No Servicep. 511
Poetry Is the Eagle of Experiencep. 512
Calciump. 512
At White River Roadhousep. 513
The Persimmonsp. 514
For Berkeleyp. 516
"There are those who love to get dirty"p. 516
Sestina of the End of the Kalpap. 517
How Zen Masters Are Like Mature Herringp. 518
from Cold Mountain Poems [Translations]
"The Path to Han-shan's Place Is Laughable"p. 524
"In a Tangle of Cliffs I Chose a Place--"p. 524
"Men Ask the Way to Cold Mountain"p. 524
"I Settled at Cold Mountain Long Ago"p. 524
"I Have Lived at Cold Mountain"p. 524
"In My First Thirty Years of Life"p. 525
"There's a Naked Bug at Cold Mountain"p. 525
"Cold Mountain Is a House"p. 525
"Some Critic Tried to Put Me Down--"p. 526
"When Men See Han-shan"p. 526
from Miyazawa Kenji [Translations]
Spring and the Ashurap. 530
Floating World Picture: Spring in the Kitagami Mountainsp. 532
Cloud Semaphorep. 533
The Politiciansp. 534
Thiefp. 534
Sixteen T'ang Poems [Translations]p. 535
Long Bitter Song [Translations]p. 545
from No Nature
How Poetry Comes to Mep. 557
On Climbing the Sierra Matterhorn Again After Thirty-one Yearsp. 557
The Sweatp. 558
Buildingp. 560
Off the Trailp. 562
Word Basket Womanp. 563
Right in the Trailp. 565
For Lew Welch in a Snowfallp. 567
Ripples on the Surfacep. 568
from Mountains and Rivers Without End
Bubbs Creek Haircutp. 571
The Blue Skyp. 576
The Flowingp. 580
Arctic Midnight Twilightp. 584
Walking the New York Bedrockp. 587
New Moon Tonguep. 591
Macaques in the Skyp. 592
Raven's Beak River at the Endp. 593
Cross Legg'dp. 595
We Wash Our Bowls in This Waterp. 596
Earth Versep. 598
Finding the Space in the Heartp. 599
New Poems
Icy Mountains Constantly Walkingp. 605
Summer of Ninety-Sevenp. 606
"This present moment"p. 608
Chronologyp. 611
Indexp. 615