Poetry Monday – “For All” by Gary Snyder
Introducing a new OMK feature: Poetry Monday. Every Monday we will bring you a poem that contains environmentalist sensibilities or a simple Love of Earth. We will also introduce you to some of the poets that have shaped poetic discourse around questions of the human relationship with the land in various cultures. [If you have a poem you’d like to share, feel free to submit it as a guest post.]
For the inaugural Poetry Monday, I bring you a poem by Gary Snyder–one of the foremost American environmentalist poets (he has been called “the poet laureate of Deep Ecology”), and also, coincidentally, one of the writers who has heavily influenced my own evolving environmental sensitivities. When I was in high school, my dad suggested I read “Turtle Island” (which held a prominent place on his bookshelf), and I read through the collection over and over, profoundly moved by the deep connection Snyder felt to the landscapes he inhabited. Last year I was lucky enough to hear Gary Snyder read some of his poems at a national writers’ conference; he was grandfatherly and warm.
Gary Snyder was born in San Francisco in 1930. He grew up on farms on the West Coast and later lived in Japan where he studied Zen Buddhism. He was involved with the Beat Poets and the San Francisco Renaissance. He won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1975 and is considered one of the quintissential poets of the American West. His poems are plain-spoken and straight-forward; he draws on his experiences working as a logger, carpenter, forester, and in other outdoor professions to develop his insights on the spiritual nature of human interconnectedness with the land.
And now, with no further ado, the poem:
Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
holding boots, pack on,
sunshine, ice in the shallows,
Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.
I pledge allegiance
I pledge allegiance to the soil
and to the beings who thereon dwell
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.