|Gary Snyder (l), Allen Ginsberg (r), 1965|
Glacier Peak, Washington State (Photo © Allen Ginsberg)
Of this figure allied with the Beats (he was the prototype of Jack Kerouac's character "Japhy Ryder" in The Dharma Bums) and the San Francisco Renaissance, this longtime Zen Buddhist and environmentalist, this former professor at the University of California, Davis, I will say that his poetry's attentiveness to nature and its material and spiritual dimensions, his gifts for simplicity, brevity and the telling detail, his openness to non-US influences, and his generosity as a poet, all recommend reading him as much as possible. The poem below also shows another gift of his, wit, which glides right up on you. I like to listen to podcasts of Snyder sometimes, just to hear his laugh. The seriousness of intent and lightness of touch in his work fit together like a hand in a glove, or, using a metaphor of his, a handle to an axe-head.
(NB: I am unable to replicate the glyphs that appear between stanzas in the original text.)
AS FOR POETS As for poets The Earth Poets Who write small poems, Need help from no man.
The Air Poets Play out the swiftest gales And sometimes loll in the eddies. Poem after poem, Curling back on the same thrust. At fifty below Fuel oil won't flow And propane stays in the tank. Fire Poets Burn at absolute zero Fossil love pumped backup The first Water Poet Stayed down six years. He was covered with seaweed. The life in his poem Left millions of tiny Different tracks Criss-crossing through the mud. With the Sun and Moon In his belly, The Space Poet Sleeps. No end to the sky- But his poems, Like wild geese, Fly off the edge. A Mind Poet Stays in the house. The house is empty And it has no walls. The poem Is seen from all sides, Everywhere, At once.
Copyright © Gary Snyder, "As for Poets, " from Turtle Island, New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1975. All rights reserved.