Gary Snider The American Poet Essay, Research Paper
Gary Snider the American Poet
A spiritual man, conscious of nature and his surroundings. He recognizes good and evil, and struggles to find his own special place in the realm of all other men. He searches far and wide for places of interest , upon arrival, he hopes to find a solemn sanctuary for man and nature.
Gary Sherman Snyder, the son of Harold and Lois Snyder, was born in San Francisco, California, on May 8, 1930. The Family moved quite a few times before they settled down in Portland, Oregon, in 1942. Snyder was granted a lot of freedom at a young age, he was allowed to hike and camp on his own. At thirteen, he was allowed to explore the high country of the Cascade Mountains alone (Magill, Frank p.2668). The solitary experience turned into a fascinating relationship with nature.
Snyder began his education in Portland at Reed College where he received his B.A. in Anthropology in 1951. Later that year, he began to study linguistics and anthropology at Indiana University. Not wanting to write a dissertation to earn a Ph.D. Snyder left the University in 1952, and went to San Francisco to do odd jobs. While in San Francisco he decided he wanted to study Buddhism (Magill, Frank p.2668).
He began to prepare himself for a trip abroad by studying Oriental Culture and Languages from 1953, through 1956, at the University of California Berkeley. Snyder used his summers to work in Baker National Forest and Yosemite National Park (www.english.uiuc.edu). While working in the forests he wrote some of his most famous poetry.
In 1956, Snyder, goes to Japan on scholarship from the Firs Zen Institute of America. In Japan, he lived in the Zen Temple. A year later he began work on a tanker, as a wiper in the engine room. While on the ship Snyder continued to comprise poetry. After his service on the ship he studies Zen under Zen master Oda Sesso Reshi from 1959-65 (www.english.uiuc.edu).
Snyder is very conscious of the environment and has traveled to many Universities to lecture about wilderness issues. Snyder, is well known for his conversation lectures but he has received more credit for his poetry.
Gary Snyder has sixteen publications of which he has been a finalist for the National Book award, and he has won the following: American Book Award for Axe Handles (1983); the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Turtle Island (1974); the American Academy of Arts and Letters award, the Bollingen Prize, a Guggenhiem Foundation fellowship, the Bess Hokin Prize, Levinson Prize from Poetry, the Robert Kirch Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Times, and the Shelly Memorial Award. Since 1990, he has been a professor of English at the University of California, Davis (www.poets.org).
Gary Snyder has spent most of his life as a transient, traveling to the dismal edges of the earth. Snyder, did so for his personal serenity. His inner peace with himself and nature is obvious in all of his poetry. Gary Snyder’s poetry will take any reader to the exact scene and state of mind the poet was in when he compiled the poem. Gary Snyder’s language, images, and emotions make his book Riprap, a outward bound vacation in the Rocky Mountains.
Snyder, wrote Riprap, while he was backpacking in the Rocky Mountains. Snyder chose this simple, primitive lifestyle as a personal protest against the modern advancements man makes that devistate the environment. By retreating to the woods Snyder, created his own utopia. “His utopia remains a place of social bonds and values that work in an immanent way, unsanctioned in an immanent way, unsanctioned by any larger theological order (Molesworth p. 34).” The title poem, and the last to appear in his compilation is “Riprap.” The poem sums up his trip into nature. The poem explores his spirituality, emotions, and wise worldly beliefs.
The poem “Riprap,” has a special structure that plays a major role in how the poem is read and understood. The poems structure has been keyed a “textual riprap.” The reader, will observe the text construct a path of imagery that allows the reader to go on a visual journey with Snyder.
His spirituality is expressed in the poem when Snyder notices the placement of his surroundings. The stones each, “placed solid, by hand,:” The hand of something much greater than a mortal being. Gary Snyder’s spirituality is unique and he expressed his beliefs by going to nature where he does not feel superior over any of nature’s creations.
The emotions of Snyder is interpreted by the lines “These poems, people, lost ponies with dragging saddles and rocky sure-foot trails.” He describes how he has been lost, wandering in the woods, and even though he is tired and “ dragging saddles,” he will continue to take on the trail. Snyder’s mention of fatigue must be the reason he saved the title poem for the last in his book.
Snyder’s broad ecological understanding has in turn given Snyder a great personal perception of how the world is evolving. This can be highlighted on the final few lines. He knows that all of nature has a background whether “torment of fire and weight,” or “Crystal and sediment linked hot.” Snyder, means all things grow and mature, bond with something attractive, become solid, then will die or be broken down to become a part of something new all together.
Gary Snyder’s images and words paint a beautiful picture in the minds eye and also gives the reader a chance to understand the evolution of nature, not the evolution of man.
A view from another very popular poem in Snyder’s repertoire. “Axe Handles,” is the title poem in the book Axe Handles. The poem is a narrative autobiographical view of Snyder’s life. Snyder does this by mentioning his idols from his youth, and by referring to his son.
“Axe Handles,” indicates that all new things are sculpted by the old. Basically, their idea of the poem is man takes time to mature. At first, man starts as an insignificant being, but over time there is a building of character that is sculpted by mentors and idols.
Snyder, refers to his son wanting to imitate him. Kai, the poets son, is just a hatchet head lying dormant in the shop. Kai, longs to be a hatchet but Snyder explains that it will take time to build and the carpenter will have to have some kind of model to refer to. The implication being that a boy learns to be a man from his father (Murphy p.15). Snyder is confident that Kai will become an axe as well.
Gary Snyder recognizes his influence on how the axe handle will be shaped, and the molding of his son into a man. Snyder recalls his youth, himself a hatchet head in need of a handle and finds the handle pattern in the poet Ezra Pound, the essayist Lu Ji, and the college professor Shish-hsiang Chen (Murphy p.15). Snyder does not refer to his mentors as a hatchet but rather an axe. In his fifties, Snyder also becomes an “axe,” complete in both functions as a “model” and as an instrument in the service of the “craft of culture” (Murphy p.15).
The first section of Axe Handles is Loops, and “Axe Handles” is the first poem to appear in the book.. Loops is an interesting name for the section of the book because the idea of a son being shaped by his father and later in life when he becomes a man and has a child of his own, where he in turn becomes a carpenter of character. Not only does Loops refer to the circle of life , but there is a loop in the book. “Axe Handles,” is also found on the back cover of the book, thereby functioning as the beginning and the end of his collection (Dean p.253). Snyder’s poem, represents how life is a ride that loops back on itself.
Snyder shows his sensitive side in “December at Yase.” One of four poems dedicated to an ex-lover Robin. “December at Yase,” is published in The Back Country. The poet lets his emotions flow about himself growing older, his young love for Robin, and the couple’s break up.
Gary Snyder is full of vivid memories of that day when she chose to be free. Snyder describes it like a picture, both of them on a hill side in tall dry grass close to an orchard. Then the poet puts the scene into action with her quote, “Again someday, maybe ten years.” Next, a memory jumps on the page, it is the first time they meet after the break up.
How awkward the time when the two meet again. Not much was said the love was then dead. Snyder came looking to win her precious love, and so happened he was shot down like a dove.
Only in a dream, he can see her face. He hopes on day she will come to her place. The passion and love “Return to my mind, to my flesh.” He pleads they had what all other want, and realizes he’s a fool for not wanting to be caught.
The poet feels old now, as though he had “lived many lives.” He knows its his fault for craving solemn time. The love he never knew, because the mystery of what’s beyond the blue. Maybe, one day they will find each other again, then he can find out if that is what his “karma demands.”
The emotions are real and the lyrics are sweat. Snyder is fascinating, and has proved he is great. He floats on a cloud somewhere hard to see, and as an eternal hippy he is world renowned.
His ideas are good but the world can not slow down. He is a man who has made a difference and is still traveling around giving conservation seminars.