The Back Country

The Back Country

The Back Country

The Back Country


This collection is made up of four sections: "Far West"--poems of the Western mountain country where, as a young man. Gary Snyder worked as a logger and forest ranger; "Far East"--poems written between 1956 and 1964 in Japan where he studied Zen at the monastery in Kyoto; "Kali"--poems inspired by a visit to India and his reading of Indian religious texts, particularly those of Shivaism and Tibetan Buddhism; and "Back"--poems done on his return to this country in 1964 which look again at our West with the eyes of India and Japan. The book concludes with a group of translations of the Japanese poet Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933), with whose work Snyder feels a close affinity. The title, The Back Country, has three major associations; wilderness. the "backward" countries, and the "back country" of the mind with its levels of being in the unconscious.


For Joyce and Homer Matson


Fur the color of mud, the smooth loper
Crapulous old man, a drifter,
Praises! of Coyote the Nasty, the fat
Puppy that abused himself, the ugly gambler,
Bringer of goodies.

     In bearshit find it in August,
         Neat pile on the fragrant trail, in late
         August, perhaps by a Larch tree
         Bear has been eating the berries.
                   high meadow, late summer, snow gone
                   eating berries, married
         To a woman whose breasts bleed
         From nursing the half-human cubs.

              Somewhere of course there are people
                 collecting and junking, gibbering all day,

“Where I shoot my arrows
“There is the sunflower’s shade
             —song of the rattlesnake
                coiled in the boulder’s groin
“K’ak, k’ak, k’ak!
               sang Coyote. Mating with
               humankind— . . .

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