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Turtle Island

Paperback Book
New Directions
January, 1981
$19.95 CAD
Banyen's Description: 

Turtle Island is Gary Snyder’s most popular collection of poetry and short essays (having sold over 120,000 copies since its Pulitzer Prize–winning publication in 1975). Turtle Island is the old/new name for the continent, based on many creation myths of the peoples who have been here for millennia, and reapplied by some of them to ‘North America’ in recent years.

Also, an idea found world-wide, of the earth, or cosmos even, sustained by a great turtle or serpent-of-eternity.

A name: that we may see ourselves more accurately on this continent of watersheds and life-communities—plant zones, physiographic provinces, culture areas; following natural boundaries. The "U.S.A." and its states and counties are arbitrary and inaccurate impositions on what is really here.

The poems in the book range from the lucid, lyrical, and mystical to the political. Included are classics such as "Why Log Truck Drivers Rise Earlier Than Students of Zen," "The Real Work," and "Prayer for the Great Family." All, however, share a common vision: a rediscovery of North America and the ways by which we might become true natives of this land for the first time.

The USA slowly lost its mandate

in the middle and later twentieth century

it never gave the mountains and rivers, trees and animals,

a vote.

all the people turned away from it

myths die; even continents are impermanent


Turtle Island returned.

my friend broke open a dried coyote-scat

removed a ground squirrel tooth

pierced it, hung it

from the gold ring

in his ear.


Also included is Gary Snyder's seminal "Four Changes," (which planted those green seeds), "Energy Is Eternal Delight," "What's Meant by 'Here,'" and other short essays written from 1969 to 1974.


Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;

holding or releasing; streaming through all

our bodies salty seas

in our minds so be it.


Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through

trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where

bears and snakes sleep—he who wakes us—

in our minds so be it.

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