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Gary Snyder is a rarity in the United States: an immensely popular poet whose work is taken seriously by other poets.

Eliot Weinberger

Gary Snyder

Contemporary American beat poet, essayist and environmental activist

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. Throughout these years, Gary Snyder worked at various outdoor jobs—as a seaman, as a lookout in Mt. Baker National Forest, as a choker setter for a logging company, on a trail crew at Yosemite National Park. These experiences are integrally reflected in such works as Riprap and Myths and Texts. As he has remarked, "I’ve come to realize that the rhythms of my poems follow the rhythm of the physical work I’m doing and the life I’m leading at any given time—which makes the music in my head which creates the line." 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.


Look Out

Poetry by Gary Snyder


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. More recently, 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, 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.



The Real Work: Interviews And Talks

Nonfiction by Gary Snyder


The Real Work is the second volume of Gary Snyder’s prose to be published by New Directions. Where his earlier Earth House Hold (1969) heralded the tribalism of the "coming revolution," the interviews in The Real Work focus on the living out of that process in a particular place and time––the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California in the 1970s. The talks and interviews collected here range over fifteen years (1964-79) and encompass styles as different as those of the Berkeley Barb and The New York Quarterly. A "poetics of process" characterizes these exchanges, but in the words of editor Mclean, their chief attraction is "good, plain talk with a man who has a lively and very subtle mind and a wide range of experience and knowledge."


Available: August 01 1980


Myths And Texts

Poetry by Gary Snyder


Gary Snyder’s second collection, Myths & Texts, was originally published in 1960 by Totem Press in association with Corinth Books. It has been reissued by New Directions in a completely revised format, with a new introduction by the author. The three sequences in the books––"Logging," "Hunting," "Burning"––show the remarkable cohesiveness in Snyder’s writings over the years, for we find the poet absorbed, then as now, with Buddhist and Amerindian lore and other interconnections East and West, but above all with the primeval devotion to the land and work. "I set this poem loose on the world some years ago," Snyder writes. "It looks like an old friend I haven’t seen in a while... The effort of this kind of poetry remains one of our most challenging enterprises: here on Occupied Turtle Island, we are most of us a still restless population of non-natives who don’t even know the plants or where our water comes from. Myself, raised in the West, in the basin of Puget Sound, what some poets now call Ish Nation, set out like everyone else, to make sense, and to find somehow a way to actually ’belong to the land.’"


Available: April 01 1978


Turtle Island

Poetry by Gary Snyder


Describing the title of his latest Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of poetry and occasional prose pieces, Gary Snyder writes in his introductory note that Turtle Island is "the old new name for the continent, based on many creation myths of the people who have been here for millennia, and reapplied by some of them to ’North America’ in recent years." The nearly five dozen poems in the book range from the lucid, lyrical, almost mystical to the mytho-biotic, while a few are frankly political. All, however, share a common vision: a rediscovery of this land and the ways by which we might become natives of the place, ceasing to think and act (after all these centuries) as newcomers and invaders. A tentative cross-fertilization of ecological thought with Buddhist ideas of interpenetration is also suggested, reflecting the poet’s own life with his family and comrades in the foothills of the California Sierras.


Available: November 01 1974


The Back Country

Poetry by Gary Snyder


"A reaffirmation of a back country of the spirit" (Kirkus Reviews), this collection is made up of four sections: "Far West" — poems of the Western mountain country where, as a young man, Gary Snyder worked as a logger and forest ranger; "Far East" — poems written between 1956 and 1964 in Japan where he studied Zen at the monastery in Kyoto; "Kali" — poems inspired by a visit to India and his reading of Indian religious texts, particularly those of Shivaism and Tibetan Buddhism; and "Back" — poems done on his return to this country in 1964 which look again at our West with the eyes of India and Japan. The book concludes with a group of translations of the Japanese poet Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933), with whose work Snyder feels a close affinity. The title, The Back Country, has three major associations: wilderness, the "backward" countries, and the "back country" of the mind with its levels of being in the unconscious.


Available: June 01 1971


Regarding Wave

Poetry by Gary Snyder


"Wild nature as the ultimate ground of human affairs"––the beautiful, precarious balance among forces and species forms a unifying theme for the new poems in this collection. The title, Regarding Wave, reflects "a half-buried series of word origins dating back through the Indo-European language: intersections of energy, woman, song and ’Gone Beyond Wisdom.’" Central to the work is a cycle of songs for Snyder’s wife, Masa, and their first son, Kai. Probing even further than Snyder’s previous collection of poems, The Back Country, this new volume freshly explores "the most archaic values on earth… the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth, the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe…”



Earth House Hold

Poetry by Gary Snyder


Both Pound and Williams have shown how a good poet can revitalize prose style. Earth House Hold (a play on the root meanings of "ecology") drawn from Gary Snyder’s essays and journals, may prove a landmark for the new generation. “As a poet," Snyder tells us, "I hold the most archaic values on earth. They go back to the late Paleolithic; the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth; the love and Ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe." He develops, as replacement for shattered social structures, a concept of tribal tradition which could lead to "growth and enlightenment in self-disciplined freedom. Whatever is or ever was in any other culture can be reconstructed from the unconscious through meditation . . . the coming revolution will close the circle––and link us in many ways with the most creative aspects of our archaic past."



The New Directions Anthology Of Classical Chinese Poetry

Poetry by

translated by David Hinton, Kenneth Rexroth, Ezra Pound, Gary Snyder and William Carlos Williams
Edited by Eliot Weinberger

A rich compendium of translations, The New Directions Anthology of Chinese Poetry is the first collection to look at Chinese poetry through its enormous influence on American poetry. Beginning with Ezra Pound’s Cathay (1915), the anthology includes translations by three other major U.S. poets––William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder––and an important poet-translator-scholar, David Hinton, all of whom have long been associated with New Directions. It is one of the first general anthologies ever to consider the process of translation by presenting different versions of the same poem by multiple translators, as well as examples of the translators rewriting themselves. A playful and instructive study into the art and tradition of Chinese poetry, this anthology gathers some 250 poems by nearly 40 poets, from the anonymous early poetry through the great masters of the T’ang and Sung dynasties. It also includes previously uncollected translations by Pound; a selection of essays on Chinese poetry by all five translators, some never published before in book form; Lu Chi’s famous "Rhymeprose on Literature," translated by the eminent scholar Achilles Fang; biographical notes that are a collage of poems and comments by both the American translators and the Chinese poets themselves; as well as Eliot Weinberger’s excellent introduction that historically contextualizes the influence Chinese poetry has had on the work of American poets.