Monday, October 1, 2018

Curation #152 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Caribou Planet by Gary Lawless

Item #152 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this softcover 2015 Blackberry Books (no printing number) edition of Caribou Planet by Gary Lawless. This book has no page numbers, measures about 6" x 9", and is in very good condition. The provenance is that I got it directly from the author, who inscribed it thus:
for Rick Dale --
Fellow Dharma Bum on
the Caribouddhist trail --
gary lawless
I used to have Gary come talk to my Kerouac class at the University of Maine at Farmington. I met him a few years ago in Portland, Maine at a poetry/music fundraiser for poverty. I discovered that Gary had hitchhiked to California (from Maine) as a young man and lived with Gary Snyder, who influenced him greatly in ways poetic and otherwise. Students were always mesmerized -- as was I -- by his stories (and advice about life). Below is some information I used to share with my students (between the asterisks):

Gary Lawless is an internationally recognized poet and environmentalist who has published over sixteen books of poems.  In the 1970s, he forewent graduate school in order to be Gary Snyder’s apprentice in California.  Lawless is publisher of Blackberry Books Press and co-owner of the independent bookstore, Gulf of Maine Books, located in Brunswick, Maine.

From an interview at

I stayed in Maine to go to college and then I hitchhiked to California.  I went from Belfast and Waterville, where I lived the first twenty-one years of my life, to living at Gary Snyder’s house in the mountains of California and meeting all these people whose books I’d been reading for the last four years.  All of a sudden, who’s here today, well there’s Daniel Ellsberg, and Jerry Brown, and Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and all these other people who were equally cool.  It was immediately expansive, like my whole life had changed for the better.  My parents were worried that I’d go to California and grow my hair out and take drugs and have sex, and all of that happened like the first day [laughs].  There was this whole world of change going on in 1969 to ’72, that in Belfast in Maine, things were pretty much going along the way they always did.

In my late high school years I discovered the The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. Two or three years after I read the novel I found out it was based on a real person whose name was Gary Snyder, so I started reading him.  He recommended Native American texts and Buddhist texts, so I was following all those trails and trying to find out who all these people were, and a lot of it led me back to the idea that the earth is a living being and that that’s who I owe my allegiance to, not to humans, and that I should listen to the other species and learn from them.


You see the obvious Kerouac connection here: Gary lived and apprenticed with Gary Snyder (Japhy Ryder in Kerouac's The Dharma Bums)! Alas, Gary never met Jack Kerouac -- it was too late for that. As to the book, I believe this is Gary's latest book of poetry, but I am not totally sure about that. He couldn't make it to my class the last couple of years I taught it and we have sort of lost touch. This book features free-flowing and beautiful nature-based poems -- you can feel Snyder's influence. I like it a lot. You can buy it from most booksellers on-line or at the Amazon link below.

If you collect Beat-related items on your Kerouac bookshelf, it makes sense to include this book.

Below is a picture of Shelf #5 (last one!) of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (6th from the top of the pile) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Caribouddhism by Gary Lawless.

Shelf #5 of my Kerouac bookshelf

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