With all this very interesting talk about Gary Snyder and wilderness in some parts of the blogworld at present (http://www.canoeinthemist.blogspot.com/), I thought I might post here one of my very favourite Snyder poems, Piute Creek, which is taken from Riprap, his 1st book of poetry published in 1959 (the title poem Riprap is also very fine).
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.
I think this is a wonderful poem. I don't want to do a critical analysis; suffice to say, Snyder's life-long preoccupations with Zen Buddhism, wilderness and mankind's ambiguous relationship with nature are pervasive. The line All the junk that goes with being human/Drops away... is just fantastic. (You experience floatingly that drop from rock to creek in a brilliantly effective enjambement.) I've found some of Snyder's other poetry collections rather more challenging - with their personal obliquities and beatnik flow - but Riprap, this 1st collection, remains a small, radiantly shining jewel in the pantheon of American 20th century literature.
(Another of my posts on Gary Snyder - which includes his poem Riprap - is here.)