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184 Western American Literature Gang, has the only “Automotive Interlude” I’ve ever seen in a collection of poems. Magorian’s latest chapbook, The Yellowstone Meditations, consists of forty four-line haiku-likepoems that make us rethinkourviews ofwilderness and national parks. I find striking imagery, satire, irony, and poignancy woven into most of the forty poems, usually with one of those qualities dominant in each individual poem. Irony marks the opening poem: “I. The geysers, moody/ as old high school classmates,/ wait toerupt/until yourbackis turned.”The weakestpoemsinthecollectiontendtohavethe most satirical thrust, as inthispredictable attack: “XVII. Leaning onhis squadcarfend­ er,/the sheriff—cowboyboots, glintybadge,/avalanche ofbellyoverbelt—Igunsdown strangers with his stare.” More successful areimagistic gems such as this: “XXIV. Like a shoplifter,/ lightning strolls/ nonchalantly/ around the lookout tower.” My favorites have a bittersweet/funnysad poignancy, as in the last poem: “XL. In the dump/ another generationofbears/pauses toread/your checklists.” Most of Magorian’s four-liners lack the lyric intensity ofEmily Dickinson’s short poems, but he shares Dickinson’s ability to surprise us into new ways of seeing the world. Like Zenkoans, TheYellowstoneMeditations tickle themind’sfunnybone. JAMES H. MAGUIRE BoiseState University TheBookofYaak. ByRickBass. (Boston: HoughtonMifflin, 1996. 190pages, $21.95.) I’ve finally finished reading Rick Bass’s The Book ofYaak. It took me a while. It wasnottoughreadingordullorunimportant. Ijust didn’t wanttoleave it—andbecause I wasinvolvedinmyownattempttosaveasacredplace, it spoketomeinaspecialway. I’d heard Rick speak at a seminar on nature writing last year in Key West. He’d servedon apanel dealing withart and advocacychaired byTerryTempestWilliams, an artful advocate herself. The question seemedtobe “Cangoodwriting advocate?” Certainly TheBook ofYaak advocates. Rick argues that art “is aresponse to atime andaplace,”that it “makes orderout ofchaos,”andhe sayshe writes “tobeadvocating for a voiceless thing.” Wilderness? TheYaak is Rick’splace, and the time is now, and “we donot haveenough art andwilderness.” Certainly the book qualifies as art; it contains fine writing, poignant passages, and passionate caring. It is a series ofessays held together by a sense ofplace and a theme that suggests the needforbalance inourlives, inourcommunities, inour forests, inthe whole wide world. Inhis introductionRicksays“Iamconvincedthattheonlywaytosaveourselves is tosavetheYaakValley.”Hemakesauniversalissueofhisindividual issue, andwhynot? He writes about the dark side ofAmerica as corporate greed, and he suggests that “cor­ porateAmerica—BigTimber,mostly”andtheadvertisingindustryhavemadeusintothe most wasteful country inthe world. The Yaak is an isolated richly diverse valley in the extreme northwest comer of Montana, aplace timber companies have cut the hell out offor decades. Rickhas been trying for almost a decade to save some ofit from the chainsaws, but even though this tinycomercontainsagreatervarietyofplantandanimallifethanalmostanyothersouth ofCanada, not asingle acre ofithas been set aside asprotected wilderness. He says, “I want afewroadless areas inthis still-wild valleyto remainthat way.” Reviews 185 Rick lists the faunal and floral species of the Yaak Valley, takes the reader on walks in those woods where Pacific Northwest meets Northern Rockies near the Canadian bor­ der, near the Montana-Idaho stateline. He introduces the reader to the rural community that has become his home—though Rick and his family live in the woods at the extreme end of “civilization.” Vicariously I hunted with him, walked in his woods, got muddy, saw my clothes stained by late-summer huckleberries and wet by late spring rains. He takes me along, too, in his thinking by sharing his feelings and his spiritual quest. He tells it as he sees it—the Forest Service lies, the politicians’ indifference to things that matter, the multinational corporations’ continuing rape of the land in the name of jobs with the blessings of our elected officials and natural resource agencies— and since I share his vision and his experience in my own frustrating efforts to save cul­ tural resources, he speaks to me. I think the book speaks to anyone who cares about the natural world. I believe (Rick writes at one point “please keep believing”), as he does, that people should be angry “When a given industry asks to be put above and beyond the law,” as the timber indus­ try has by the Salvage Logging Rider. This rider, written by the timber industry, gave the industry carte blanche to cut “any and every tree in the forest” without environmental appeal. No wonder Rick is angry. I’m...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 184-185
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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