Today Tom Killion presented woodcuts and prints and Gary Snyder read poetry from “Mountains and Rivers Without End” at the Parsons Memorial Lodge in Tuolomne. When I first learned that Gary Snyder would give a poetry reading in Tuolomne, I was amazed that they’d gotten a poet of his stature to come read, and that he’d travel to Tuolomne for a poetry reading.
Once Snyder talked about his ties to Tuolomne, starting when he worked on trail crew in Yosemite in 1955, it became clear why he was here. He read poems that he wrote during his trail crew years, written by campfire light at the end of a long day’s work on the trails. He talked about the hikes he’d done in both Tuolomne and the Minarets near Mammoth, and the times he climbed Matterhorn Peak.
His poem, ‘Fire in the Hole’, describes when they drilled the hole for the dynamite charges used in backcountry trail building. Snyder went on to explain the genesis of the title “Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems”. Riprap is the term the trail crew foreman used to for cobbles placed across slick glacial polish so that the mules can walk on it; riprap also describes the cobbles placed at breakwaters and wharves.
Snyder also read ‘Off the Trail’, ‘Bear Sign’, his poem about hauling hay, and a very short one about Matterhorn Peak, which I particularly like.