Riprap: a cobble of stone laid on steep, slick rock to make a trail for horses in the mountains. Forty-five years ago, Snyder's first book of poems, "Riprap," was published by Origin Press in a beautiful paperbound edition stitched Japanese-style.
Here was a poet who was very, very different - a poet who, far from being totally wrapped up in himself, was instead wrapped up in the universe. He appeals to us because, being himself wholly in touch with reality, he helps us get back in touch with reality ourselves. Ego is put firmly in its place, opening up a space in which the myriad things can come forward and announce themselves.
The secret of how Snyder was able to do this, of how he was able to bring us, not yet another of those obscure, tortured and anguished sensibilities who were and still are so thick on the ground, but who brought instead a sane and wholesome vision of the world, is all there in the very first poem of RIPRAP, 'Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout' :
"Down valley a smoke haze / Three days heat, after five days rain / Pitch glows on the fir-cones / Across rocks and meadows / Swarms of new flies. // I cannot remember things I once read / A few friends, but they are in cities. / Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup / Looking down for miles / Through high still air" (p.9).
Where did Snyder learn how to do this? The answer is that it could only have been in China.Read more ›