Gary Snyder’s Practice of the Wild

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti called Gary Snyder the “Thoreau of the Beat Generation.” He’s that, and after a lifetime of poetry, prose, and teaching, he’s become much, much more. His poetry is steeped in the western landscape, but clearly has roots in the traditions of Buddhism, Chinese poetry, and haiku. His major works of prose (A Place in Space and The Practice of the Wild) celebrates the simple act of living in place, no matter where that might be.

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Some have called this poetry collection Gary Snyder’s most personal. It begins with the young poet ascending still dormant Mount St. Helens in 1945, a climb that coincided with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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Mountains and Rivers Without End is a book-length poem weaving geology, prehistory, myth, and worldwide spiritual traditions.

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Riprap was Snyder’s first book of poetry, published in 1959. This volume also includes his classic translations of Han Shan’s Cold Mountain Poems. We never pass by a copy of this wonderful book!

Gary Snyder has also collaborated with artist Tom Killion on two classic studies focused on particular landscapes:

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If you would like to learn more about Gary Snyder visit the indispensable Poetry Foundation website (it’s great!), and if you’re looking for a grand overview of his work, take a look at The Gary Snyder Reader: Prose, Poetry, and Translations, 1952-1998.

For now, here’s one of our favorite poems — enjoy!

For the Children

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us.
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light

Gary Snyder, from Turtle Island

 

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