The Back Country (1968) by Gary Snyder is an autobiographical collection of poems, covering his youth when he worked as a logger and forest ranger, followed by poems written between 1956 and 1964 in Japan and India, then a section on his return to the USA where he considers the West through Asian eyes. The title of the book refers on one level to the wilderness of which he writes, but also to so-called ‘backward’ countries and the ‘back country’ of the mind in which the unconscious resides.
The collection contains a series of poems covering a year in Japan, mostly Kyoto. Here he writes of climbing Mt Hiei and looking over Biwako (Lute Lake)…
Sitting and resting on the crest, looking far
out over Yokkawa
to a corner of Ohara –
Sugi and fir and maple on the half-logged hill
A delicate little hawk floats up
hunting delicate little country mice to eat. Lute
Lake; the noble Sugi – a tree as great as Redwood, Douglas
Fir, Sequoia, Red Cedar, Sugar Pine.
(To hell with all these cultures – history
after the Jurassic is a bore. Sugi like Sequoia;
Hinoki like a cedar)
Light wind, warm May sun & old woman bundling
brush by the trail –
men planing beams in a cool tin-roof shed
for the new Shaka-do – fine double-edged saws
hand worn brush-hooks
battered jikatabi, funny breeches, cotton head-things
like the Navajo –
relit cigarette butts, sturdy walkers – hills and trails
of rocks and trees and people.
Quiet grey-wood copper-roofed old temple. Down
and off into the Ogi village fields, and on along
steep ridges through bamboo brush to Ohara, Jakko-in.
Jizo there with his bug-scare clanker staff
(Night-ride America; thin-lipped waitress whores –)