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Gary Snyder

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Turtle Island
coverGary Snyder Reader : Prose, Poetry, and Translations, 1952-1998 by Gary Snyder

Introducing this generous selection of the most appealing of the Beat writers, Jim Dodge says he changed his college major from fisheries management to "interdisciplinary studies, incorporating biology, English, and journalism" after reading Snyder's "Hay for the Horses." That early poem, from Riprap (1959), is Snyder's "Stopping By Woods" or "Richard Cory" --the one of his poems that, once read, is never forgotten, perhaps because, like Frost's and Robinson's chestnuts, it makes a statement about life's meaning, albeit a much more sanguine one than the great New Englanders' poems make. It appears in Dodge's remarks and again among the other poems in the collection. May it change other lives, though if one is resistant to poetry, there is twice as much of Snyder's prose here, concerned with nature, environmental consciousness, mythology, and, underlying it all, Buddhism, of which Snyder has long been a major practical Western exponent. Snyder is a man who lives healthily in the world, and any of his work is likely to change lives. -- Ray Olson

"The spirit contained in this collection is an everlasting tug in the right direction." -- The Boston Book Review

This monumental collection gathers the essays, travel journals, letters, poems, and translations of one of the most influential literary voices of the twentieth century.

Gary Snyder has been a major cultural force in America for five decades-prize-winning poet, environmental activist, Zen Buddhist, and reluctant counterculture guru. Having expanded far beyond the Beat poems that first brought his work into the public eye, Snyder has produced a broad-ranging body of work that encompasses his fluency in Eastern literature and culture, his commitment to the environment, and his concepts of humanity's place in the cosmos. The Gary Snyder Reader showcases the panoramic range of his literary vision in a single-volume survey that will appeal to students and general readers alike.

Prose selections include letters to Lew Welch and Philip Whalen; journals from his travels to Saigon, Singapore, Kyoto, Ceylon, New Delhi, and Daramshala; meditations on Buddhism and the surrender of self; a cultural survey of communal living; and notes from the lookout tower on Sourdough Mountain, where Snyder once watched for forest fires. Also included are two long interviews with Snyder from East West Journal and The Paris Review.

The Reader also gathers poems from each phase of Snyder's long career-from his first collection, Riprap, to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Turtle Island, through his recently completed poem cycle, Mountains and Rivers Without End. It also includes Snyder's little-known translation of the great "Long Bitter Song" poem by Bai Juyi, the longest poem in the Chinese language.

From freighter to fire tower, Zendo to Himalayan mountain ridge, Snyder's writings reflect a lifetime of study, journey, and mindfulness. Time and again, his work has captured key moments in our changing culture, transforming our concept of literature and its place in a purposeful life.

About the Author
Gary Snyder has published sixteen books of poetry and prose. His book Turtle Island won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1975. No Nature, a volume of selected poems, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1992. When his long poem cycle, Mountains and Rivers Without End, was published in 1996, Snyder was honored with the Bollingen Poetry Prize and the Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Times.

Since 1970 he has lived with his family in the watershed of the South Yuba River in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Northern California.

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Riprap
Lay down these words 
Before your mind like rocks. 
      placed solid, by hands 
In choice of place, set 
Before the body of the mind
      in space and time:
Solidity of bark, leaf or wall 
      riprap of things:
Cobble of milky way, 
      straying planets, 
These poems, people, 
      lost ponies with 
Dragging saddles -- 
      and rocky sure-foot trails.
The worlds like an endless
      Four-dimensional 
Game of Go.
      ants and pebbles 
In the thin loam, each rock a word
      a creek-washed stone
Granite: ingrained 
      with torment of fire and weight
Crystal and sediment linked hot
      all change, in thoughts,
As well as things.

 

Interview with Gary Snyder

1998 Interview with the poet and ecological activist features his thoughts on conservation, Buddhism, and the Beat era.

 

Gary Snyder -- Academy of American Poets

Includes a biography and photo, link to excerpts from his work and links to related resources.

 

Gary Snyder Chronology and Critical Essays

This is an informative site with a chronology of Snyder's life, with critical essays about Snyder's work. 

 

Smokey the Bear Sutra by Gary Snyder 

Excerpt:

Once in the Jurassic about 150 million years ago, the Great Sun Buddha in this corner of the Infinite Void gave a discourse to all the assembled elements and energies: to the standing beings, the walking beings, the flying beings, and the sitting beings - even the grasses, to the number of thirteen billion, each one born from a seed, assembled there: a Discourse concerning Enlightenment on the planet Earth

"In some future time, there will be a continent called America. It will have great centers of power called such as Pyramid Lake, Walden Pond, Mt. Rainier, Big Sur, Everglades, and so forth; and powerful nerves and channels such as Columbia River, Mississippi River, and Grand Canyon. The human race in that era will get into troubles all over its head, and practically wreck everything in spite of its own strong intelligent Buddha-nature..."

 

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