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Grand Canyon Poet's Society

If I were an American, I should make my remembrance of {the Grand Canyon} the final test of men, art and policies. I should ask myself: Is this good enough to exist in the same country as the Canyon? How would I feel about this man, this kind of art, these political measures, if I were near the Rim? Every member of the Federal Government should remind himself with triumphant pride, that he is on the staff of the Grand Canyon.

J.B Priestly, Midnight on the Desert, 1937

Song of the Sky Loom

Oh our Mother the Earth, oh our Father the Sky,
Your children are we, and with tired backs
We bring you the gifts you love.
Then weave for us a garment of brightness;
May the warp be the white light of brightness
May the border be the standing rainbow.
Thus weave for us a garment of brightness
That we may waling fittingly where birds sing,
That we may walk fittingly where grass is green,
Oh our Mother the Earth, oh our Father the Sky!

Pueblo Poem


For there are some people who can live without wild things about them and the earth beneath their feet, and some who cannot. To those of us who, in a city, are always aware of the abused and based earth below the pavement, walking on grass, watching the flight of birds, or finding the first spring dandelion are rights as old and unalienable as the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We belong to no cult. We are not nature lovers. We don’t love nature any more than we love breathing. Nature is simply something indispensable, like air and light and water, that we accept as necessary to living, and the nearer we can get to it the happier we are.

Louise Dickenson Rich.


How many more generations will pass before it will have become nearly impossible to be alone even for an hour, to see anywhere nature as she is without mans improvements upon her? How long will it be before, what is perhaps worse yet, there is no quietness anywhere, no escape from the rumble and the crash, the clank and the screech which seem to be the inevitable accompaniment of technology? Whatever man does or produces, noise seems to be an unavoidable by-product. Perhaps he can, as he now tends to believe, do anything. But he cannot do it quietly. Perhaps when the time comes that there is no more silence and no more aloneness, there will also be no longer anyone who wants to be alone.

Joseph Wood Krutch


May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.
May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.
May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets' towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you -- beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.

-- Edward Abbey


When I'm in the Grand Canyon,
it is like being in another world,
but the same world

Part forest, part desert;
Time and age have no meaning,
but a meaning.

It is young and old;
the river with its roaring rapids,
still forming the canyon.

Robbie Houston age 10


I stood upon the rim of some magical world ---
Vague, silent, mystical --- it's depths unfurled
In splendid, sloping terraces, mist-hung,
And wondrous in the shifting colors flung
Like draperies of gauze 'twixt space and sun.
A sleeping silver snake, seen from the heights,
The far-off river rushing to its doom.

From startling depths a city rose to view,
Builded in ages when the earth was new,
Vast hanging gardens, gay in mineral bloom,
Enchanted castles, silent as the tomb;
Domes, towers and ramparts, bathed in violet lights,
And tints --- an artist's rapture and despair ---
Ten million sunsets must have shattered there.

by Henry Cleveland Wood
first published in Four Track News
copyright about 1909


In the grand canyon Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world.
Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it and man can only mar it.
What you can do is to keep if for your children, your children's children;, and for all who come after you as the one great sight which every American should see.

Theodore Roosevelt


I stand on the ledge ... and look back and down. The canyon turns, twisting out of sight, screening the gulch itself, as if the only way one is allowed knowledge of what went before is to go down and find out. A thin corner of blue sky catches on a sandstone pinnacle: so different up here, slickrock rolling away for miles, so open, windswept, windtorn. The canyon, sheltered by its cocoon of sunwarmed walls, is to me a halcyon place.

I turn away with regret, feeling freshly molted. Down in the canyon I grew a little, understood a little more, perceived even more, and in so doing split the carapace of time and place I commonly wear. Split it, wriggled out of it, left it here, a stiff and empty shell to be blown away by a canyon wind. The new skin was extra-sensitive, and so I perceived the canyon about me with new eyes, more sensitive touch, emotions closer to the surface, and I walked protective of this as yet unhardened integument.

And now I walk out, having experienced this shucking-off of everyday ways, to return to the everyday world. But for a short while that newly bared skin is too delicate to cope with the noise and the smell and the denser necessities of living. It takes a few days for the new carapace to harden, smooth out, protect again. Until then I feel as vulnerable as the crabs skittering across the rock in his new soft clothes or the dragonfly clinging to the sedge stalk and tentatively flexing wrinkled wings.

Ann Swinger
Wind In The Rock


I think over again my small adventure.
My fears,
Those small ones that seemed so big.
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach.
And yet there is only one great thing,
The only thing
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world

Old Inuit song


The sun is sere and burning,
the beach sand bare and sage
but for urge of memory
it might be any age.
The world machinery silent
the modern new no more
time beats and rolls toward me,
lace-shattered on the shore.
Swift sweep of eons falter
the stuff of life takes pause
If we created history
can we then repeal its laws?
I could juggle time and logic
like pebbles in my hand
and walk with Hance and Powell
barefoot on the sand.

Slim Woodruff 1981

To the primal wonders no road can ever lead; they are not so won
To know them you shall leave road and roof behind; 
You shall go light and spare,
You shall win them yourself, in sweat, sun, laughter,
In dust and rain with only a few companions.
You shall know the night—it’s space, its light, its  music
You shall see earth sink and darkness and the universe appear.
No roof shall shut you from the presence of the moon,
You shall see mountains rise in the transparent shade before dawn.
You shall see and feel, first light, and hear a ripple in the stillness.
You shall enter the living shelter of the forest.
You shall walk where only the wind has walked before.
You shall know immensity, and see continuing the primeval forces of the world.  You shall know not one small segment but the whole of life, strange, miraculous, living, dying, changing.
You shall face immortal challenges; you shall dare, delighting, to pit your skill, courage, and wisdom against colossal facts
You shall live lifted up in light;
You shall move among clouds.
You shall see storms arise, and, drenched and deafened, shall exult in them.
You shall top a rise and behold creation.
And you shall need the tongues of angels to tell what you have seen.

Nancy Newhall, this is the American Earth

When the last living thing
Has died on account of us,
How poetical it would be
If Earth could say,
In a voice floating up
From the floor
Of the Grand Canyon,
"It is done."
People did not like it here".

— Kurt Vonnegut

Spires glow golden in the sun
Outlined in the fading light
When the course of day has run
And the raven takes to flight.

River dances over stones
waltzing with the ripples bright
sharply edged the water hones
And the raven takes to flight.

Rainbows caper in the mist:
Race before the gathering gloam
Breezes by the deluge kissed
Bring the raven safely home.
--Slim Woodruff

History bound in solid pages
Written slowly grain by grain
Pained patiently through ages
Bleaching white, and red rock stain sponges traced in filigree
Lithified by sands of time
Footprints of an ancient sea
-- SLim Woodruff

Where then have the people gone?
Back to the ancestors halls.
What then did they leave beind?
Only the crumbling walls
What did the shaman deposit thus crossing the sacred land
The echo of a whispered prayer and footprints in the sane.
And what is the waiting sound I hear, so sorrowful and wild?
Only the cry of a mother past, searching for her child.
-- SLim Woodruff



Oh! where did you come from, you dirt red thing,
Born in the mountains of many a spring
Whose clear crystal waters you claimed as your own,
Mixed them with mud and lashed them to foam?
First is the "Green" and next the 'Grand,"
But now Colorado, because of your sand,
Your silt and your mud; and now they do say,
That out of pure spite you hid it away
In this unearthly, inaccessible place,
So that no man could find you, or look into your face,
except it might be as he stood on your brink
a half-league above you and died for a drink.
But now that I've met you, come, let us be friends,
For some of your meanness you may make amends.
Come, tell me, how first you came to this place?
Have you always been rushing along at this pace?
Did you reap out this chasm in old Mother Earth?
Or was she split open the day of your birth?
When over her surface you generously cast
Your life-giving fluid to clothe her in green?
I don't like to think you were always so mean.
Just think of the friends you would have if you could:
And I'm half inclined to believe that you would
Spread out through these valleys in the broad light of day
Now, mad rushing River, come, what do you say?


Well, now, my dear boy, if you won't say any more,
I'll try for one moment to shut off my roar.
And see if I cannot hunt up the page:
Yes, now I have found it, the Tertiary Age!
In the record I keep of passing events,
Since first I set out for the mysterious hence,
'Twas then I was born, my Father, the Lake,
His afternoon nap was preparing to take.
His surface was smooth, and transparent as glass,
For hundreds of miles -- it's the truth, Mr. Bass.
The lesson I've learned from my mother, the Earth
In whose bosom I've nestled since the day of my birth.
Away down in her bowels, in the Igneous veins
She had an attack of griping and pains;
A trembling sensation, and then a great crash
That formed the Grand Canyon -- that wondrous gash!
The fact is apparent that as she grew old
Her skin grew thick as her body crew cold,
A constant contraction made the inside too small --
The outside was folded, my dear boy, that's all.

William Bass