Gary Snyder: Poets Forum Reading

well it is absolutely thrilling to be part of this celebration of the breadth and vivacity and moral depths and and playfulness of American poetry in every way and for me personally an enormous joy to celebrate a poet who has been a trail layer and a path opener all my life so the formal citation few poets changed not only a cultures poetic landscape but the landscape of culture itself this Gary Snyder has done in his work the relationships of human and Earth a fact and myth of labor and love are remade refitted by the lifelong freedoms of his curiosity and the bedrock integrity of his vision with an almost physiological originality of phrase music and structure Gary Snyder has brought to American poetry a lyric poem whose subjects and views are objectively humbly epic his words look into the world and our human lives with acuity affection and the ethics of a ten thousand year perception he has changed both what we know and how we say any truly good poem is a recalibration of the scale of what matters Gary Snyder's words have widened the pans of that scale until our highways and mountains our rivers and oil tankers the orbits and murmurs of this moment's news fit inside them such an act has typical power changing intern writer reader and world with this 2012 while a Stevens award the Academy of American poets on behalf of all American poets thanks Gary Snyder for his unceasing remembrance investigation and embodiment of the many existences and languages of which each of us is part thank you Gary well that's a great pleasure and an honor to be here with all of you and with so many dear friends really some of them going back for quite a few years I just flew last night from the west coast to get here as I know some others of you did and I was just thinking maybe I should just moon all the way I kind of felt like it and I felt you know very much like it last week when I was filling up my gas tank and it came to sixty-five dollars which is not uncommon out in California famous for its many virtues but you ought to know about the expenses too I could if I let myself go I could easily try to talk or would want to talk about our life in America our life in poetry the poetry and the people of the last 50 years I'm thinking about that a lot these days I won't bother you with it right now don't my thanks do go however to some great teachers some mentors that I connected with early on and I want to invoke Robert Duncan Kenneth Rexroth Allen Ginsberg and Philip Whalen as for people from whom I took many teachings and Allen Ginsberg just to say a word on his behalf a lot smarter cookie than people know and a deep and thoughtful thinker on matters of language and poetics and the advice that he had to give was never anything like sound like me he knew that some of the things he did were unique to the time into place and some of the things he did were not necessarily going to last but within the great body of his work there are a number of powerful and unique poetic moves like moves on the goal board that we can all still learn from and James Laughlin who gambled on my work early and published me in new directions my first national level of publication was that and then a later eject shoemaker who's back on the west coast now with whom I have been working for many years in spite of the fact as we all know that the book business is having a terrible time and the motto of any publisher is don't publish anything that won't sell and then they turn around in published poetry thanks you know and we were all grateful for that so I am going to finish my bit of time here by reading four points all of them quite new all but one quite new the first one is for my late wife Carol coda C it's been six years now it's called gnarly you know G in a arnelle wide gnarly for Carol splitting 18-inch old log grounds from a beetle kill pine tree we failed so it wouldn't later smash a shed with a borrowed splitter Briggs & Stratton 20-ton pressure wedge on a piston push rod some rounds fall clean down split into some tough and thready knotty full of fresh and galleries early normally my woman gnarlie she was sweet anger cattle and Achilles think of the wrath of Achilles two of my best friends quit speaking one said his wrath was like that of Achilles the three of us had traveled in the desert awakened to birdsong and sunshine under iron woods in a Wadi south of the border they both were herders one with cattle and poems the other with business and books one almost died in a car crash but slowly recovered the other gave up all his friends took refuge in a city and studied than the once's of power one of them I haven't seen in years I met the other lately in the far back of a bar musicians playing near the window and he sweetly told me listen to that music the self we hold so dear will soon be gone stories in the night in native California a winter was exclusively storytelling time they don't tell didn't tell and still don't tell their traditional stories except in the wintertime that's one part of this and the other background information that might help here is that where I live in the northern Sierra is quite remote and for some complicated reasons that have to do with long-term ownership of gold-bearing gravel and land use we've never had electricity off the grid and have and my neighbors – we've all been self-sufficient standalone energy producers each in our own way but generally all of us using solar panels and one sort or another of generator and so generators you know in some parts of the world are big topics of conversation like somebody's one of the wives of one of the professors at the University of Alaska Fairbanks once said to me when I was visiting up there I just can't stand these husband's all they talk about is airplanes guns and sled dogs still true to yesterday I was working most of the day with the breakdown in the system gener generator 1 generator 2 and old phased out generator 3 the battery array the big trace inverter the solar panels back to the old days they all had stopped cold early morning in the dark we had kerosene lamps candles and the wood stoves always worked the backup generator the number three Honda cycles wrong tricking the inverter the relay that starts the bulk charge the big green Onan fueled by propane wouldn't start one time turned out there was a clogged air cleaner oil drops blow back up from deep inside I try to remember machinery can always be fixed but be ready to give up the plans that were made for that day go back to the manual call up friends who know more makes them tea relax with your tools and your problems start enjoying the day first 15 years we lived here kerosene lamps heavy tile roof in the shade of a huge pre-contact black oak sherry Siegfried's longtime woman friend and partner is due at any time with a 9 ton truck of 3/4 inch crushed rock what dirt every winter eats up gravel keeping a few hard roads for drenching winter rains and melting snows takes planning you have to ditch them to in 1962 going all through Kyushu with Jo Ann walked around Nagasaki busy streets and coffee shops green leafy trees and Gardens a lively place but at Mount I saw the great caldera in the center of the island the crater 15 miles across saw sightseers from Nagasaki with that twisted shiny scarred burned face of survivors from those days and then read the English translation of the graphic novel barefoot again what got me about the bomb was too much power and then temptation there to be the first the first to be the Emperor of the world yet to be done so change our course around or there we head I could never be a Muslim a Christian or a Jew because the Ten Commandments in Commandments fall short of moral rigor the Bible's shalt not kill leaves off the other realms of life how could that be what sort of the world did they think this is with no account for all the wriggling feelers and the little thins the spines the slimy necks eyes shining in the night paw prints in the snow and that other thing can't have no other God before me like profound anxiety of power and jealousy and envy what sort of God is that worrying all the time plenty of little gods are awaiting to begin their practice and learn just who they are in North India fourth century AD some buddhist tantric teacher lady said that god called you over to the west he's really something but too bad he has this nutty thing that he's creator of the world a delusion that could really set you back but returning to energy I'll fix the Oh nan give up on number three it's too far gone and next time get a backup with a cast-iron block and water cooling and a warranty good for centuries put in a bunch more panels for the Sun the old-time people here in warm earth lodges thirty feet across burned pitchy pine wood slivers for their candles snow after snow all those centuries before launch firelight and itchy slivers burning don't need much light four stories in the night I'm gonna finish with a little point that some of you may have heard me do a couple times before a letter to Ma who lives far away a young woman 12 or 13 who wrote me a letter all in rhyme from British Columbia asking me to tell her more about poetry I knew her father dear Melissa I do remember you you had curly hair and stood by the stair up there on Quadra aisle with a shy smile say hello to your mother Jean I don't remember your sister's name and that's a shame but I sort of remember her face and natural grace not all poetry has to rhyme but this time I'm writing back the way you did it it's to your credit you got me to write this form since real poetry is born from a formless place Buddhist teachers say in play so if this helps you be a writer it will please your new friend Gary Snyder you

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