“Trying to figure out who you are is like trying to take a snapshot of a river. It’s hard to know because it’s constantly moving. But I’ve tried to make each moment accurate to my perception of it.”
– Peter Coyote
Possessing one of the most recognizable voices to be featured on our pages, Peter Coyote has acted in more than 150 films and television shows and lent his distinctive, gravelly narration to an equal number of documentaries including eleven Ken Burns classics. But while publicly building his career as an actor, he was privately developing his voice as a poet – initially working toward a master’s degree in creative writing at San Francisco State University in 1964.
Thus begins the 55-year odyssey of his captivating first book of poetry “Tongue of a Crow.” Distilled, shaped and sharpened from hundreds of poems written over a half-century of full tilt living, the collection swings from his heady days hanging with The Beatles and Grateful Dead through marriage and divorce, drugs and dalliances, late-life elegies and evolving spirituality. Presented in a non-chronological collage, the poems read like flights of memory, always sifting and searching. As a writer, Peter’s gift is his keen observation of the human condition and all its flaws – with a Zen awareness of the honesty required to unflinchingly own it. It’s this raw honesty that makes his deeply personal poems so universal. “I’ve been a meditator for a long time,” he says. “Poetry is an in-depth meeting with your own mind, which is what meditation is.”
Peter has authored four books including a memoir of the counter-culture years, Sleeping Where I Fall (a chapter of which won a Pushcart Prize) and The Rainman’s Third Cure, a study of mentors and spiritual wisdom that garnered a best creative nonfiction nomination. In 2011, after studying Zen Buddhism for 37 years, he was ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest. He lives on a small farm in Northern California with 40 fruit trees, two dogs, and one 1952 Dodge Power Wagon (what he considers his most intractable addiction).