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The Back Country

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  500 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 150 pages
Published January 17th 1971 by New Directions
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Mar 01, 2010 Erik rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
Gary Snider is one of the most amazing people I have never met. He was born at the right time, but never quite fit in with his contemporaries. However, he still managed to carve a niche in the world of poetry and become one of the most important people of his generation. Gary Snyder has out-survived nearly all of the people who initially championed him. He made a name for himself on all sides of the globe, and he continues to inspire people to this day. I was a very young when I first discovered ...more
Sep 01, 2014 Mat rated it really liked it
Very good collection of poems from Snyder. This book consists of five sections - 1) Far West (poems written when Snyder worked as a logger and on a trail crew in the Western mountain country of Oregon etc.; 2) Far East (poems written in Japan between 1956-1964 while he studied Zen Buddhism); 3) Kali (poems inspired by his trip to India where he met up with Ginsberg and Orlovsky and studied some famous Indian religious texts); 4) Back (poem written upon returning to the States but with new eyes h ...more
Sep 15, 2013 A.M. rated it liked it
There are bits of passages and thoughts with which I connected, but for the most part, I found this collection of poetry exhausting to read.

I liked "Hitch Haiku" from the first section and a number of poems from the second section entitled "Far East." The poem entitled "Some Views Concerning the Proposed Site of a National Park" was darkly amusing, but it is a bit long, and I am not in the mood to type the entire things out here.

His shorter poems appeal to me the most:


Erik Akre
Feb 13, 2016 Erik Akre rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who appreciate wilderness and/or Zen
Shelves: poetry
Gary Snyder's work broadens the meaning of the word "wild." My thinking about the mountains, meditation, Zen, the Beat generation, bioregionalism, place, and poetry would not be the same without his writing. If I write poetry at all, it's because I've read his work.

In the Back Country, form is very organic. It's like an old gnarled tree or the shape of a boulder or a riverbed. It flows, "chaotically," it's order unknown, unperceived--even by him, ultimately? Rhyming seems to happen spontaneously
Chris LaMay-West
Jun 24, 2013 Chris LaMay-West rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, beats
I've always loved Gary Snyder's poetry for the mix of subject matter- equal parts Buddhist philosophy, environmentalism, love of the outdoors of the U.S. West and Asian travelogue. All of this is in excellent display in this volume of work from the late 50s and early 60s, which is organized in sections covering poems written in the West while working on logging and trail crews, in Japan while studying Buddhism, traveling through India, and the back in the U.S.. There's also a section of translat ...more
Sean A.
Mar 15, 2015 Sean A. rated it really liked it
A noble if uneven effort. Snyder writes of multifaceted concerns in an honest way. I liked the translations at the end as well.
Rob Woodard
Jan 11, 2011 Rob Woodard rated it liked it
I've just reread this after many years and I have to say it's probably my least favorite of Snyder's poetry volumes. there's lost of good stuff here, but there's also a kitchen sink feel to this--like he just threw in everything he had at the time. This means there's some lesser stuff here, which causes the book to wander a bit. Also there's some ego coming thru in these poems that usually doesn't mar his work. Worthwhile for Snyder's fans but not the best starting point for the curious.
Jan 26, 2009 Mark rated it liked it
Don't know why, but this didn't grab me as much as Turtle Island. I think I could benefit from a little research into his references, and maybe a slower read with fewer distractions. But that can be hard to come by.

Still, a solid collection with moments that certainly shined through for me with that sense of clarity available only viscerally.
Jul 13, 2014 April rated it it was ok
I struggled to get anything out of this. Maybe it's over my head or I don't have enough context for these poems, but they didn't resonate with me. Also a lot of the style (spacing, indents, etc.) was distracting or confusing. I might try another work by him to feel fair about this.
Jan 25, 2008 Sabrina rated it did not like it
Who would have guessed I liked poems about trees, coyotes, travelling, dropping in on friends, slowing down, making bread, accomplishing a hard day's work? The poems in here that others would find crude or ignoble and patriarchical I find wrapped in sadness.
Jan 27, 2011 Sarah rated it liked it
There were some nice moments in this book, and it made me nostalgic for all the places he's been; however, few of the poems grabbed me in a particularly profound way. It lacked creative imagery, and thus anything to really hold onto.
Jason Crane
Jul 23, 2016 Jason Crane rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Snyder looks at his life in the Pacific Northwest, Japan, India and back home again. Lots of frank talk about sex and Buddhism. Recommended.

UPDATE: Read this again two years later and liked it even more.
Oct 05, 2011 Camellia rated it really liked it
On the one hand, it sounded like nonsense, especially the first few poems, but it inspired me to write a couple poems, so I'm giving it 4 stars.
Mike Essig
Mar 23, 2016 Mike Essig rated it it was amazing
My path as a poet began in 1968 when I shoplifted this book. Snyder is a wonder. And still with us, last of the beats.
Jul 10, 2016 Kevin rated it really liked it
I need to find more Gary Snyder books, a perfect blend of the natural and the asian influence in poetry
Dec 27, 2010 robert rated it really liked it
"One must allow silence to speak for itself"
Esteban Novales Condes De Hortores, Seville, 1603
Ron Warnick
Aug 18, 2010 Ron Warnick rated it it was amazing
"Magpie on a limb, tilts his head and says, "Turquoise blue, I wouldn't fool You."
Jan 03, 2013 Lysergius rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Snyder was "Japhy Rider" in Kerouac's "On the Road". Great stuff...
Alexander Davis
Mar 15, 2011 Alexander Davis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Radiates majesty in it's sparseness
May 12, 2008 Amanda rated it really liked it
Recommended to Amanda by: Professor Tillinghast
Poems about trees, Buddhism, or women.
Jul 27, 2007 Jenni rated it really liked it
Shelves: poets
Very good.
Kieran marked it as to-read
Jul 27, 2016
Steve rated it liked it
Jul 17, 2016
Ben marked it as to-read
Jul 09, 2016
Thornton Prime
Thornton Prime rated it really liked it
Jul 09, 2016
John rated it liked it
Jul 11, 2016
Mike Breger
Mike Breger marked it as to-read
Jul 06, 2016
John Owens
John Owens rated it it was amazing
Jun 20, 2016
Ryan Reeves
Ryan Reeves rated it really liked it
Jun 19, 2016
Filip Teplý
Filip Teplý marked it as to-read
Jun 17, 2016
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Gary Snyder is an American poet (originally, often associated with the Beat Generation), essayist, lecturer, and environmental activist. Snyder is a winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Since the 1970s, he has frequently been described as the 'laureate of Deep Ecology'. From the 1950s on, he has published travel-journals and essays from time to time. His work in his various roles reflects his im ...more
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turn, turn,
and again,
hard scrabble
steep travel
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