“I Went into the Maverick Bar” by Gary Snyder

I went into the Maverick Bar
In Farmington, New Mexico.
And drank double shots of bourbon
backed with beer.
My long hair was tucked up under a cap
I’d left the earring in the car.

Two cowboys did horseplay
by the pool tables,
A waitress asked us
where are you from?
a country-and-western band began to play
“We don’t smoke Marijuana in Muskokie”
And with the next song,
a couple began to dance.

They held each other like in High School dances
in the fifties;
I recalled when I worked in the woods
and the bars of Madras, Oregon.
That short-haired joy and roughness—
America—your stupidity.
I could almost love you again.

We left—onto the freeway shoulders—
under the tough old stars—
In the shadow of bluffs
I came back to myself,
To the real work, to
“What is to be done.”

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About Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.


  1. I have a lot of thoughts about this, but I don’t want to get into the depth of it here. I’ll leave it at this: rednecks are people too.

  2. See, I didn’t get that from it at all. I would have thought someone like Snyder might have sidestepped that kind of debate – being all zen and beatnik.

    Some interesting comments on it here: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/s_z/snyder/maverick.htm

  3. What I got from it was that he went into a redneck bar, and was surprised to get along with the people there. And I’m saying he shouldn’t have been, but from conversations I’ve had with people recently, I guess that’s overly optimistic of me.

    Also, I’m shite at poetry. It’s a weakness.

  4. People are always surprised by what they don’t know in social terms, perhaps; but I thought the references were to core American cultural icons, rather than ‘rednecks’, and not necessarily in a derogatory way. Perhaps ‘stupidity’ is the unfortunate word here. And this was written ages ago – so I wonder if country folk were viewed with such derogatory phrases.

    I like the bit in the interview where he says:

    “The real work is becoming native in your heart, coming to understand we really live here, that this is really the continent we’re on and that our loyalties are here, to these mountains and rivers, to these plant zones, to these creatures. The real work involves developing a loyalty that goes back before the formation of any nation state, back billions of years and thousands of years into the future. The real work is accepting citizenship in the continent itself.”

  5. I should probably read the interview…

    I just had this long and frustrating argument with a friend of mine, locally. He holds the South in utter and complete contempt and I said, well, most Southerners hold the North in contempt as well. And that dumbfounded him. The whole discussion was me trying to get him to see that these people didn’t like him specifically because his first reaction to them, always and without exception, was to treat them like backwater idiots. He had the audacity to say that Southerners were inherently backwards, and used the political writings of an antebellum radical as his source material. Guh!

    Anyway. I argue too much.

  6. I can understand that being annoying, to say the least. People cling too tightly to some strange ideals… Doesn’t seem the most tolerant chap in the world. Did you not slap him?

  7. We’re old friends. I just couldn’t get him to see the inherent flaw in his argument.