Personal favorites selected by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet himself.
Beginning with the publication of The Back Country in 1968, Gary Snyder's long-cherished association with New Directions continued through the publication of his poetry books: the Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling Turtle Island (1974), and Myths & Texts (1978), as well as his prose works, Earth House Hold (1969) and The Real Work (1980), all essential titles on the New Directions list. Snyder's No Nature: New and Selected Poems, a finalist for the National Book Award, was published in 1993 by Pantheon, and his long-anticipated epic poem Mountains and Rivers without End was published by Counterpoint in 1997. Snyder has had a seminal place among American landscape writers. "As a poet," he once wrote, "I hold the most archaic values on earth." He has long been associated with Beat writers such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and other poets such as Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Creeley, and Robert Duncan. His poetics are founded in Poundian modernism, Chinese and Japanese poetry, and ancient oral native traditions.Look Out is a collection personally compiled by Gary Snyder for New Directions, containing poems and essays from all his New Directions books. It offers first-time readers a chance to see the evolution of his thought and poetry, spanning two decades, and old-time fans the opportunity to behold all the favorites, in a new Bibelot edition. Also included here is Snyder's Introduction, as well as a new poem written about the late New Directions founder James Laughlin.
About the Author
Born in 1930 in San Francisco, Gary Snyder grew up in the rural Pacific Northwest. He graduated from Reed College in 1951 with degrees in anthropology and literature, and later, 1953–56, studied Japanese and Chinese civilization at Berkeley, returning there to teach in the English Department. After participating in the San Francisco revival, the beginning of the beat poetry movement, with Ginsberg, Whalen, Rexroth and McClure, Snyder quietly went off to Japan in 1955 where he stayed for eighteen months, living in a Zen monastery. In 1958, he joined the tanker "Sappa Creek" and traveled around the world. In early 1959 he again returned to Japan where, apart from six months in India, he studied Kyoto under Oda Sesso Roshi, the Zen master and Head Abbot of Daitoku-Ji. He has spent further time (1966–67) in Japan on a Bollingen research grant. In 1969 he received a Guggenheim grant and toured the Southwestern United States visiting various Indian tribes.
Read an Excerpt
LOOK OUT: A SELECTION OF WRITINGS
By GARY SNYDER
A NEW DIRECTIONS BibelotCopyright © 2002 Gary Snyder
All right reserved.
Fire in the Hole Squatting a day in the sun, one hand turning the steeldrill, one, swinging the four pound singlejack hammer down. three inches an hour granite bullhump boulder square in the trail. above, the cliffs, of Piute Mountain waver. sweat trickles down my back. why does this day keep coming into mind. a job in the rock hills aching arms the muletracks arching blinding sky, noon sleep under snake-scale juniper limbs. that the mind entered the tip of steel. the arm fell like breath. the valley, reeling, on the pivot of that drill-twelve inches deep we packed the charge dynamite on mules like frankincense. Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole! jammed the plunger down. thru dust and sprinkling stone strolld back to see: hands and arms and shoulders free. Foxtail Pine bark smells like pineapple: Jeffries cones prick your hand: Ponderosa nobody knows what they are, saying "needles three to a bunch." turpentine tin can hangers high lead riggers "the true fir cone stands straight, the doug fir cone hangs down." -wild pigs eat acorns in those hills cascara cutters tanbark oak bark gatherers myrtlewood burl bowl-makers little cedar dolls, baby girl born from the split crotch of a plum daughter of the moon- foxtail pine with a clipped curve-back cluster of tightfive-needle bunches the rough red bark scale and jigsaw pieces sloughed off scattered on the ground. -what am I doing saying "foxtail pine"? these conifers whose home was ice age tundra, taiga, they of the naked sperm do whitebark pine and white pine seem the same? a sort of tree its leaves are needles like a fox's brush (I call him fox because he looks that way) and call this other thing, a foxtail pine. Hitch Haiku They didn't hire him so he ate his lunch alone: the noon whistle * * * Cats shut down deer thread through men all eating lunch * * * Frying hotcakes in a dripping shelter Fu Manchu Queers Indian Reservation in the rain * * * A truck went by three hours ago: Smoke Creek desert * * * Jackrabbit eyes all night breakfast in Elko. * * * Old kanji hid by dirt on skidroad Jap town walls down the hill to the Wobbly hall Seattle Spray drips from the cargo-booms a fresh-chipped winch spotted with red lead young fir- soaking in summer rain * * * Over the Mindanao Deep Scrap brass dumpt off the fantail falling six miles * * * [The following two were written on classical themes while travelling through Sappho, Washington. The first is by Thomas L. Hoodlatch.] Moonlight on the burned-out temple- wooden horse shit. Sunday dinner in Ithaca- the twang of a bowstring * * * After weeks of watching the roof leak I fixed it tonight by moving a single board * * * A freezing morning in October in the high Sierra crossing Five Lakes Basin to the Kaweahs with Bob Greensfelder and Claude Dalenburg Stray white mare neck rope dangling forty miles from farms. * * * Back from the Kaweahs Sundown, Timber Gap -sat down- dark firs. dirty; cold; too tired to talk * * * Cherry blossoms at Hood river rusty sand near Tucson mudflats of Willapa Bay * * * Pronghorn country Steering into the sun glittering jewel-road shattered obsidian * * * The mountain walks over the water! Rain down from the mountain! high bleat of a cow elk over blackberries * * * A great freight truck lit like a town through the dark stony desert * * * Drinking hot saké toasting fish on coals the motorcycle out parked in the rain. * * * Switchback turn, turn, and again, hardscrabble steep travel a-head. The Manichaeans for Joanne Our portion of fire at this end of the milky way (the Tun-huang fragments say, Eternal Light) Two million years from M 31 the galaxy in Andromeda- My eyes sting with these relics. Fingers mark time, semen is everywhere Two million seeds in a spurt. Bringing hand close to your belly a shade off touching, Until it feels the radiating warmth. Your far off laughter Is an earthquake in your thigh. Coild like Ourabouros we are the Naga King This bed is Eternal Chaos -and wake in a stream of light. Cable-car cables Whip over their greast rollers Two feet underground. hemmed in by mysteries all moving in order. A moment at this wide intersection, Stoplights change, they are catastrophes among stars, A red whorl of minotaurs gone out. The trumpet of doom from a steamship at Pier 41. Your room is cold, in the shade-drawn dusk inside Light the oven, leave it open Semi transparent jet flames rise fire, Together we make eight pounds of Pure white mineral ash. Your body is fossil As you rest with your chin back -your arms are still flippers your lidded eyes lift from a swamp Let us touch-for if two lie together Then they have warmth. We shall sink in this heat of our arms Blankets like rock-strata fold dreaming as Shiva and Shakti And keep back the cold. The Six Hells of the Engine Room The Hot Air Hell of the fiddley where tails are too hot to touch and your shoes burn The oily cramp Hell of the bilges painting underside pipes-saltwater and oil ankledeep slosh in the shoe. Inside-the-boiler Hell, you go in through a hot brick hole where it's black and radiates heat Back of the boilers-Hell soogying valve-wheels and flanges Shaft Alley Hell getting rubbed by the rough spinning shaft Paint Locker Hell, it smells fumes, your hands get all sticky. Mother of the Buddhas, Queen of Heaven, Mother of the Sun; Marici, Goddess of the Dawn for Bhikku Ghosananda old sow in the mud bristles caked black down her powerful neck tiny hooves churn squat body slithering deep in food dirt her warm filth, deep-plowing snout, dragging teats those who keep her or eat her are cast out she turns her small eye from earth to look up at me. Nalanda, Bihar To the Chinese Comrades The armies of China and Russia Stand facing across a wide plain. Krushchev on one side and Mao on the other, Krushchev calls out "Pay me the money you owe me!" Mao laughs and laughs, long hair flops. His face round and smooth. The armies start marching-they meet-Without clashing, they march through each other, Lines between lines. All the time Mao Tse-tung laughing. He takes heaps of money. He laughs and he gives it to Krushchev. Chairman Mao's belongings on the March: "Two cotton and wool mixture blankets, A sheet, two pants and jackets, A sweater A patched umbrella An enamel mug for a rice bowl A gray brief-case with nine pockets." Like Han-shan standing there -a rubbing off some cliff Hair sticking out smiling maybe rolling a homegrown Yenan cigarette Took a crack at politics The world is all one. -crawling out that hillside cave dirt house- (whatever happened to Wong- quit Chinese school, slugged his dad left the laundry, went to sea out the golden gate-did he make AB?-) black eggshell-thin pots of Lung-shah maybe three thousand years B C You have killed I saw the Tibetans just down from the passes Limping in high felt boots Sweating in furs Flatland heat. and from Almora gazing at Trisul the new maps from Peking call it all China clear down to here, & the Gangetic plain- From the Hongkong N.T. on a pine rise See the other side: stub fields. Geese, ducks, and children far off cries. Down the river, tiny men Walk a plank-maybe loading little river boat. Is that China Flat, brown, and wide? The ancestors what did they leave us. K'ung fu-tze, some buildings, remain. -tons of soil gone. Mountains turn desert. Stone croppt flood, strippt hills, The useless wandering river mouths, Salt swamps Silt on the floor of the sea. Wind-borne glacial flour- Ice-age of Europe, Dust storms from Ordos to Finland The loess of Yenan. glaciers "shrink and vanish like summer clouds ..." CROSS THE SNOWY MOUNTAIN WE SHALL SEE CHAIRMAN MAO! The year the long march started I was four. How long has this gone on. Rivers to wade, mountains to cross- Chas. Leong showed me how to hold my chopsticks like the brush-Upstairs a chinese restaurant catty-corner from the police Portland, oregon, nineteen fifty-one, Yakima Indian horseman, hair black as crows. shovel shaped incisors, epicanthic fold. Misty peaks and cliffs of the Columbia, Old loggers vanish in the rocks. They wouldn't tote me rice and soy-sauce cross the dam "Snyder you gettin just like a damned Chinaman." Gambling with the Wasco and the Wishram By the river under Hee Hee Butte & bought a hard round loaf of weird bread From a bakery in a tent In a camp of Tibetans At Bodh-Gaya Where Gautama used to stay. On hearing Joan Baez singing "East Virginia" Those were the days. we strolled under blossoming cherries ten acres of orchard holding hands, kissing, in the evening talkt Lenin and Marx. You had just started out for Beijing. I slippt my hand under her blouse and undid her brassiere. I passt my hand over her breasts her sweet breath, it was too warm for May. I thought how the whole world my love, could love like this; blossoms, the books, revolution more trees, strong girls, clear springs; You took Beijing Chairman Mao, you should quit smoking. Dont bother those philosophers Build dams, plant trees, dont kill flies by hand. Marx was another westerner. it's all in the head. You dont need the bomb. stick to farming. Write some poems. Swim the river. those blue overalls are great. Dont shoot me, let's go drinking. just Wait. Twelve Hours out of New York after Twenty-five Days at Sea The sun always setting behind us. I did not mean to come this far. -baseball games on the radio commercials that turn your hair- The last time I saild this coast Was nineteen forty eight Washing galley dishes reading Gide in French. In the rucksack I've got three nata Handaxes from central Japan; The square blade found in China all the way back to Stone- A novel by Kafu NAGAI About geisha in nineteen-ten With a long thing about gardens And how they change through the year; Azalea ought to be blooming in the yard in Kyoto now. Now we are north of Cape Hatteras Tomorrow docking at eight. mop the deck round the steering gear, Pack your stuff and get paid. 19.IV.1964
Excerpted from LOOK OUT: A SELECTION OF WRITINGS by GARY SNYDER Copyright © 2002 by Gary Snyder
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.