The Bath Summary (Gary Snyder)

Gary Snyder


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“The Bath” illustrates how the experience of fatherhood has provided Snyder with new perspectives on the interrelationship between the bodies of humans and the ecological “body” of nature.

The poem begins with a vivid description of Snyder giving his older son, Kai, a bath in the sauna at their backwoods home. The poet’s mood is relaxed, yet also attentive to details of his son’s body and how that body relates to his own. When Snyder washes his son’s penis, it surprises him by becoming erect. Yet rather than becoming embarrassed or anxious, Snyder is amused and delighted:

Laughing and jumping, flinging arms around, I squat all naked too, is this our body?

These italicized words become a refrain throughout the poem: first “is this our body?,” then “this is our body” as Snyder’s wife, Masa, and his younger son, Gen, also become involved in the scene.

In the second stanza, Masa joins Snyder and Kai in the bath, and the poet draws a loving analogy between her body and that of the landscape where they make their home: “The body of my lady, the winding valley spine.” Snyder caresses and kisses his wife, acts which stimulate him to draw further imaginative connections among the sexual and nurturing powers of his family:


(The entire section is 449 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Almon, Bert. Gary Snyder. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1979.

Altieri, Charles. Enlarging the Temple: New Directions in American Poetry During the 1960’s. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1979.

Dean, Tim. Gary Snyder and the American Unconscious. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991.

Halper, Jon. Gary Snyder: Dimensions of a Life. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1991.

Molesworth, Charles. Gary Snyder’s Vision: Poetry and the Real Work. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1983.

Steubing, Bob. Gary Snyder. Boston: Twayne, 1976.

Suiter, John. Poets on the Peaks. New York: Counterpoint, 2002.