In 1965, Gary Snyder published his first book of poems entitled Riprap. The word itself refers to “human-placed rock or other material used to protect shoreline structures against scour and water, wave, or ice erosion”[i]; however, Snyder meant it somewhat differently. In a Brockport Writers’ Forum interview he gave in 1972, Snyder recalled his days working in the Pacific Northwest when he and his fellow loggers had to lead ponies up mountain trails.[ii] The problem they encountered was ponies are not suited for such places: they cannot get their footing when paths are worn smooth, so the loggers had to pile dirt, stones, leaves, twigs, bark, and other debris onto the trails to make it possible for the ponies to climb. They called this stuff “riprap.”
The image has remained with me since I first heard it, as did Snyder’s poem.
This selection which I entitle “Riprap” is an eclectic assemblage of thoughts, values, and assumptions that I scatter over my path to provide markers and traction; on the surface have nothing whatsoever to do with Tarot, but are important insofar as they are my attempt to illuminate the ideas that underlie and inform the posts I have collected in the other sections of my blog.
[i] Definition from Wikipedia.
[ii] When I was a poetry student at SUNY Brockport, my professors made extensive use of the library Brockport Writers’ Forum interviews. Today, the staff at Brockport University is working to digitally preserve the more than 200 taped interviews in their entirety. Unfortunately, they have not gotten very far. The forty-five minute Gary Snyder interview I reference is currently available on YouTube, though edited down to fifteen minutes, and the section I am recalling is not among them. Thus, I am recalling the details that I initially heard more than thirty years ago. I might have gotten a few things wrong, but the definition of riprap is the one I remember and therefore the one that has inspired this post and the collection of posts that follow.