In 1965, three Beat poets, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Philip Whalen met at the base of Mount Tamalpais, just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Echoing the example of Tibetan monks, they walked clockwise around the mountain, modeling the path of the sun in a posture of meditation and contemplation. They started a unique tradition for many who make the mountain pilgrimage to participate in the 15-mile circumambulation (“circumTam”), four times a year. Although it began with Shinto and Buddhist influences, Snyder says its purpose is simply a creative one: “The main thing is to pay your regards, to play, to engage, to stop and pay attention. It’s just a way of stopping and looking — at yourself too.”
The talking tribe, I find, want sensation from the mountain — not in Keat’s sense. Beginners, not unnaturally, do the same — I did myself. They want the startling view, the horrid pinnacle — sips of beer and tea instead of milk. Yet often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination, when I reach nowhere in particular, but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend with no intention but to be with him.” —Nan Shepard, The Living Mountain
Try it: Mountain Pilgrimage Poems
Have you felt the pull of mountains on your soul? Have your family vacations taken you there? Think about what draws you, or others, to their peaks of crisp air. What is it about a mountain that inspires you? Write a poem reflecting on a mountain pilgrimage, either real or imagined.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here is a recent poem from Rick we enjoyed:
Photo by Pawel Pacholec. Creative Commons via Flickr.
How to Write a Poem uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.
“How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”
—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland