Going Down Grand – Poems from the Canyon
edited by Peter Anderson & Rick Kempa
GOING DOWN GRAND, the first full length anthology of Grand Canyon poems, gathers the voices and thoughts of explorers, cowboys, river- runners, hikers, artists, geologists, rangers, and others whose words reveal and bear witness to this complex and magnificent place. For readers on the river, the trails, the rim, or beyond, the poems on these pages will make fine canyon company.
Co-editor Rick Kempa has been hiking in and writing about the Grand Canyon since 1974. He is also editor of the anthology ON FOOT: Grand Canyon Backpacking Stories (Vishnu Temple Press, 2014) and has authored two books of poems, Keeping the Quiet and Ten Thousand Voices.
The Grand Canyon is, as poet Amil Quayle suggests, a place that defies description. “Language falters and dies before the fact…” he writes. It “is its own language / Written across space, causality and time.” None who try to write about the canyon are immune to spells of muteness before its vast fact. Nearly four hundred pages into his 1872 book, The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons, John Wesley Powell admits that “[t]he wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself.” Early 20th Century poet Henry Van Dyke, whose poem “The Grand Canyon” was immensely popular in its era, nonetheless asserts, “The great chasm…cannot be ploughed or plotted or poeticized or painted. IT is too big for one to do more than creep along the rim and wonder over it.” And yet, while it is true that even the best-chosen words are flimsy substitutes for being there, the poets whose work is gathered in this collection have found ways to make their encounter with the Grand Canyon real and memorable.