Gary Snyder and "Riprap" book give-away

If you know anything about Gary Snyder, then you can understand why we here at North Cascades Institute are incredibly excited about his forthcoming visit to Seattle on May 27. Strands of Snyder are interwoven in to the Institute, our mission, our staff and our North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, and his poetry and worldview have an almost totemic presence in our work.  The 50 years of poetry, interviews and essays that Snyder has produced has educated, inspired and illuminated many of us in many different ways. Some of us came out west after reading one of his books on the mountains and trails of our region. Others have been impacted by his writing about community, culture, watersheds, ecology and sustainability — concepts he was exploring decades before they became influential buzzwords in our society. I know of people that have become fire lookouts or trail workers, poets or environmental educators, Buddhists or off-the-grid pioneers in part because of the example Snyder set in both his lifestyle and his writing.
Has Gary Snyder likewise inspired or informed you in some way? Has a particular poem crystalized some thought or feeling for you? Did one of his essays change the way you look at the world ? Which of his writings have impacted you and why?
We’re curious and hope you’ll share your Snyder story with us. Everybody who responds to this post with a germaine comment will be eligible to receive a free copy of Snyder’s book Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems, a compendium of mountain poetry that is turning 50 years old this year. I’ll give folks a week to respond and then randomly pick three lucky winners, announcing them in the comments early next week.

Tickets for Snyder’s special May 27 presentation at Benaroya Hall are available now through Seattle Arts & Lectures. North Cascades Institute will be there in force, for all of our different personal reasons, so stop by our exhibit in the lobby to say hello!
Finally, if you can’t make it to Seattle to hear Snyder read, the Institute has a number of adult programs this summer related to Snyder, his time spent as a fire lookout-poet in the North Cascades and his “Beats on the Peaks” brethren like Jack Kerouac and Phillip Whalen: Ross Lake by Boat and Boot, July 9-12; 11th Annual Thunder Arm Writing Retreat with Rick Bass, Kathleen Dean Moore, Holly Hughes and Jim Bertolino, July 30-August 2; Beats on the Peaks: Lookout Poets and Backcountry Tales, August 13-16; and the Sourdough Mountain Celebration with Tim McNulty, Ron Dart and Jeff Muse, August 27-30.

Snyder photo by Christian Martin, Bellingham 2006.


  1. Nora Davis

    Gary Snyder is a well known author for his experience at Sourdough Mtn. Lookout. People who choose to work at lookouts are an interesting group. I, myself, am fasinated that a person can sit still, in a sence, for an entire season at one! Gary seems to have a calmness about him that resignates in his writings, and inspires others to find it within themselves. This type of thing is what intrigues me about Gary Snyder.

  2. Jack McLeod

    “Looking down for miles. Through high still air.” That says it for me. For all the interpretations and insightful analysis of Snyder’s poetry, I love these two simple phrases capturing the experience of being high, especially on Sourdough. The treasured calm and peace as the sun goes down and the world goes quiet and fades into the distance.

  3. Hanna Waterstrat

    Gary Snyder’s books (Earth House Hold, Turtle Island, and others) took up a good chunk of space on the bookshelves of the sailboat I grew up on. I’ve ended up wandering and working in mountains for most of my life (North Cascades National Park included). So, I guess I can thank Gary Snyder in part for the beautiful years I spent living contently as a dirtbag. His elegant, gutsy, and honest capture of wilderness and humanity has touched and inspired me in many ways. My personal favorite? Piute Creek.

  4. Laurel Fan

    I’m not a poet, but I aspire to be a mountain wanderer. I struggle with the selfishness of checking out of society, but Gary Snyder is one of the examples of those who have enjoyed nature and solitude and made a huge contribution to society.

  5. Cara Rice

    Two poems have special resonance in my life. “The Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpais” led many of us to follow Gary Snyder’s footsteps, and inspired me to circumambulate the world as a buddhist some years later. Around that time, I sent my brother and his girlfriend the brilliant poem “For the Children” on Valentine’s Day, and it was woven into their wedding ceremony. Their children are learning the flowers with me, making food and medicine and laughter.

  6. Craig A. Campbell Jr.

    “Lay down these words
    Before your mind like rocks…”
    Gary Snyder’s words are not simple rocks lying scattered before us, but rather are telling portions of the massive mountains that originally stoked his curiosity so long ago…

  7. Christian Martin

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Snyder and his work everybody — it has been inspiring to see your comments come in every few days. We randomly chose Jack, Hanna and Craig to receive the free copies of “Riprap” and will send them out in the mail this week. Hope to see folks at Benaroya Hall on May 27 when Snyder will read his work in person; details at

  8. David Freed

    I was born in 1954 and grew up in San Francisco, at the tail end of the hippie movement. Some describe these times as being freeing and mind-expanding, but for me and for others of my generation, it was also coupled with a great deal of confusion and soul-searching.
    Though these times were was supposed to be an underlying acceptance of self and of “what is,” of being “here, now” it seemed often to be marked by an unspoken competition: who had slept with the most people, who had taken the most drugs, who had followed the “Dead” to the most number of concerts. And to add to the confusion, I learned fairly early that I really didn’t like drugs, didn’t like attending anti-war protests, parties or concerts. But I could be in nature.
    During this time some of my high school teachers exposed me to the beat poets, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, and Snyder. Of them all, Snyder (along with lesser known poet Lew Welch) resonated the most; I often found myself cutting school to hike and exploring the “wilds” of the Bay Area: Mount Tam, the Berkley Hills, the north coast.
    Looking back now I see how important Snyder’s poems were to me–it is not too much to say that they were life-changing, if not life-saving.
    And even now I seek out those wild places–forests, beaches, mountains–for refuge and renewal.

  9. Barry P Beckett

    Gary Snyder became my hero when I was 17 in ’65 with Six “Sections from Mountains and Rivers Without End” and has remained so for over 50 years. I once missed the opportunity to meet him at The Boulder Book Store in ’93 when I was visiting the Rolf Institute from England in ’93. I got my priorities wrong. He has inspired my daily thoughts and actions for that long. My he live long long and return to inspired the future.
    Barry Beckett

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