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The Back Country

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  466 ratings  ·  20 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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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
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
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
Nov 01, 2015 Erik Akre rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
Jason Crane
Snyder looks at his life in the Pacific Northwest, Japan, India and back home again. Lots of frank talk about sex and Buddhism. Recommended.
cras culture
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I need to find more Gary Snyder books, a perfect blend of the natural and the asian influence in poetry
"One must allow silence to speak for itself"
Esteban Novales Condes De Hortores, Seville, 1603
Ron Warnick
"Magpie on a limb, tilts his head and says, "Turquoise blue, I wouldn't fool You."
Snyder was "Japhy Rider" in Kerouac's "On the Road". Great stuff...
Alexander Davis
Radiates majesty in it's sparseness
May 12, 2008 Amanda rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Amanda by: Professor Tillinghast
Poems about trees, Buddhism, or women.
Jul 27, 2007 Jenni rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poets
Very good.
Annalee marked it as to-read
Nov 19, 2015
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Nov 15, 2015
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Miriam Young marked it as to-read
Oct 28, 2015
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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,
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hard scrabble
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