"Idaho Is my central, sustaining, mythic landscape."

a miner working in the dark of the Bunker Hill mine in Kellogg, Idaho

I was saddened today to learn that Idaho poet and essayist William Studebaker had died in a accident while kayaking the Salmon River. Studebaker depicted the people and places of Idaho so well in his writing. This is what he said about Idaho in the book Eight Idaho Poets, edited by Ron McFarland.
"My poetics assumes Idaho. When I write, Idaho imagery often meshes with thematic considerations. Idaho is my central, sustaining, mythic landscape. " The following poem is one I always return to read. It helps me understand the underground miner a bit better by the imagery and contrasts of dark and light that are used so well by Studebaker.

Mining At Night
I pass through a portal on a train
loaded with men and dynamite.
Air-doors close behind us.
The trammer steers the train
with a throttle, speeding to stops
where men get off
where small fists of light
pull them down drifts
they blasted into themselves.

Where I work, the walls are round.
My arms go out and never return.
Only the head sends back messages:
water, rock, air, and colors I can't see.
Like a person who lives alone
I mine shadows for illumination.

(I have stood for years in the same spot
and heard the same sound
as if life were repetition:

the stroke of my heart
the feeling of my skin sliding
over the whites of my eyes
the smell of my own breath.

as if memory could beat darkness into light
I pack the sun in my head
and do my work as it were day.)

When the train pulls shift
I board for the dry
take off my leathery wings
and walk through the streets
to where sleep waits like a bat
hanging from the rafters of a vacant dream.

William Studebaker
Eight Idaho Poets, 1979

To learn more about William Studebaker's accident go here and to read another poem River Religion go here.


  1. Oh what a loss.
    This poem truly warmed my soul.

  2. That's a sad loss. Beautiful poem you posted.

  3. So sad. The poem and links you shared tho are just terrific.


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