Snyder derived the title for his first book of collected prose from wordplay on the root of the word “ecology.” As he points out in the key essay in the book, “Poetry and the Primitive,” “eco” comes from the Greek work oikos, meaning “house.” Thus Snyder playfully renders “ecology” as “earth house hold”—as a perspective that compels humans to consider the entire “earth” as a “house” that they must “hold” with more tenderness and reverence.
The book gathers journals, essays, and translations from 1952 to 1969, a period of many changes in Snyder’s life. Some of these pieces, such as reviews of two books of Native American folktales and a translation of the biography of a Buddhist master, are of interest mainly to serious Snyder scholars. For the general student and reader, however, the main interest of the book lies in the personal journals and the later essays, which show important transitions in Snyder’s life, philosophy, and conception of poetry. In the course of Earth House Hold, Snyder evolves from a wandering, questing individualist to a man firmly rooted in specific commitments to wife, community, and a communal notion of poetry.
Three chapters drawn from Snyder’s journals show his developing sense of commitment to family and community. In “Lookout’s Journal” (1952), notes from his two summers as a ranger and forest lookout in the Washington Cascades, Snyder writes an entry that is surprisingly prophetic of his later marriage to Masa and their life at the Banyan Ashram. On the other hand, his prevailing attitude is expressed in a quotation from a friend: “’Should I marry? It would mean a house; and the next thirty years teaching school.’ LOOKOUT!” Similarly, in...
(The entire section is 722 words.)