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Poets on the Peaks

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  161 ratings  ·  12 reviews
2002: by John Suiter- Great things are done, when men and mountains meet.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 3rd 2002 by Counterpoint (first published April 2002)
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(showing 1-30 of 303)
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It seemed absolutely appropriate to finish this book on Earth Day. It's a knock-out account of Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Jack Kerouac's times as fire lookouts in the north Cascade range of Washington state - my backyard, albeit about an hour from my back door.

In its own way, Poets on the Peaks is a love story: love of nature and wilderness, brotherly love between the poets and the "community of lookouts," and if love can be applied to their, "craft or sullen art," and immersion in Buddhism
This is a little dry if you're not already interested, but if you ARE interested in Snyder, Whalen & Kerouac (and to a lesser extent Ginsberg), it's great stuff. An in-depth look at a really formative period and experience for all of them -- serving as fire-lookouts in the Cascades. The author does a great job of tracing how the experience plays out in their later work and how it fostered their interest in Zen. Beautiful photos, too.
I love unique books. And this definitely fits that category. What begins as a book about two guys who spent summers as fire lookouts in the early fifties becomes a study of the intertwining of zen, poetry, and the solitude of nature contrasted with the realities of civilization in the off-season - particularly the political blacklisting of the McCarthy era. I would have liked to see more poetry included and more historic photos of the lookouts and area. However, the story of Gary Snyder and Phil ...more
Wonderful, gracefully written book covering the early-mid fifties when first Gary Snyder, and then Philip Whalen and Kerouac, took summer jobs as fire lookout in the Cascade mountains to practice Buddhism and hone their writing. The book weaves biographies of the 3 authors back and forth, and the enhanced focus on just a few summers gives you a vivid, condensed sense of the passage of this crucial time. A great chapter on the famous Six Gallery reading in SF that everyone now says launched the b ...more
Christopher  Ryan
I love this book, and now you can relive it by renting one of the cabins for a pretty good price. Someday I hope to retrace the steps of these poets.
Sep 04, 2009 Madeline rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like Kerouac, nature fans, fans of Buddhism
This read a little like a magazine profile, which would have been fine if it were a magazine profile - somewhere classy, right, with intellectual pretensions - but it's a book and I want something a little meatier.

My other problems were personal problems I have with the Beat poets, but they do not bear going into. I did like the parts that talked about human interaction with nature a lot. (And also the mostly tangential stuff about the labor movement.)
A really great and inspiring book! The writing and the photos are both beautiful. The unique thing about this book is that it is as much a portrait of the mountains themselves as of the poets. It's also a well researched account of the early days of Snyder and Whalen, their friendship with Kerouac and Ginsberg, and how these mountains played a part in all of their development as writers and as people.

An essential spark that helped to ignite my senior thesis at Middlebury College. The photos and writing in this book are beautiful, and will make you wish that you had lived the life of the Beats. This is the nice, not the naughty side of these guys.
Jim Parker
Tales of Kerouac, Snyder, and Whalen in their role as fire lookouts in watchtowers. Fascinating reading for anyone interested in the Beats.
Gene Curry
A beautiful book about the poets, such as Gary Synder, influenced by their time spent in the Pacific Cascades
Great way to see what things were really like for "Japhy"(Gary Snyder) and Jack.
Wayne Stone
the growth of poetry on the west coast - berry good!
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