Andrew Schelling


Wild Form,
Savage Grammar

Poetry, Ecology, Asia

192 pages

6 x 9 inches

ISBN: 1-888809-35-3


These essays are reports from an increasingly important crossroads where art and ecology meet. Andrew Schelling belongs, in the words of Patrick Pritchett, “ to a small group of poets who are actively engaged with the rhythms and pulses of the natural world.” He is also the preeminent translator into English of the poetries of ancient India. Wild Form, Savage Grammar collects ten years of essays, many of which investigate the “nature literacy” of American and Asian poetry traditions. Other topics include recollections of Allen Ginsberg and Joanne Kyger, wolf reintroduction in the Rocky Mountains, pilgrimage to Buddhist India, and the possible use of hallucinogens among Paleolithic artists. An underlying commitment to ecology studies, Buddhist teachings, and contemporary poetry weaves the collection together.

“What the archaic traditions (and their echoes in Asia, Native America and elsewhere) might come to mean for a nature literate people of today and the future is very exciting. A way out of the West’s goofy pastoralism? Out of the neo-Victorian nature writing which dominates the commercial nature magazines? Let’s envision somewhere in the immediate future a tradition grander than Romantic landscape verse or regional painting, and far more heartening than nostalgia for a pre-industrial or pre-agricultural past. What might it look like? Could there be a future in which ecology and art fruitfully interact, inspired by biological discoveries and scarcely envisioned conservation sciences of eras to come? My hope is that projective forms of writing will move quickly past visual descriptions of natural phenomena, to enact or recuperate what Aldo Leopold observed to be the grand theaters of ecology and the epic journeys of evolution.”

— from the Introduction


Andrew Schelling is the latest incarnation in an American poetic lineage that began with the Transcendentalists and moved west with Rexroth and Snyder: the unlikely and fortuitous conjunction of wilderness expertise, the observational precision of a natural historian, homegrown radical politics, and an immersion in Asian philosophy and writing. In these essays, poems, and translations, ancient wisdom is talking about what’s happening right now.

—Eliot Weinberger

I wish Andrew Schelling moved next door, or at least closer, so that I wouldn’t have to wait so long to hear about his latest adventure among the untamed spirits our civilization all-too-often hunts for sport. Rooted in the common heritage we share with all beings, his essays and translations are frightening and beautiful and a great gift. Maybe if I cleaned out the garage, there would be room for a cot, just in case he passes through these parts.

—Bill Porter / Red Pine


My other favorite book of essays this year is easily Andrew Schelling's WILD FORM & SAVAGE GRAMMAR (La Alameda Press, 2002): wait until you get a load of the cover painting and handsome design of this book. It's like reading a paperback made of soft ferns. The subtitle of: poetry, ecology and Asia is much the Schelling M.O., being a noted Sanskrit translator and a fellow who spends his off hours hiking in them thar Colorado hills. Schelling is also one more of those east coast children who went west and dunked his head unabashedly into the wild springs called Everson, Rexroth and Snyder and has come forth interpreting and continuing some of the best stuff of that archetypal west. He's a true blue lover of its region, its texts, and that poetry essay that reads so studiously fibrous.It gives me goose bumps! Sixty years ago and given half the chance he would have searched out Jaime deAngulo on the Big Sur coast like his New England brethren Van Wyck Brooks had done, but unlike Brooks he would have lasted out there longer. When Andrew comes to visit us, we all stand in the kitchen talking hours on end. Not a drink offered, not a chair turned to; all busy in that wild form of coming together.

— Bob Arnold

Andrew Schelling teaches poetry, Sanskrit, and wilderness writing at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Author of fourteen books, he is a renowned translator as well as poet and essayist.