Gary Snyder in Japan


by Ethan Russell

From his 1959 book Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems

“I was very Marxist in college, but couldn’t make it with the regular Commie bunch because of my individualistic-bohemian-anarchist tendencies, all much looked down upon. Of course, being the only real member of the proletariat in the bunch of them, the others being upper middle class New York kids as a rule, they really couldn’t say much. I took anthropology—Indians—and literature at Reed and got much involved with primitive religion, mythology and primitive literature—song, ritual, dance—and at about the same time was beginning to read Far Eastern history and Chinese poetry. I was married for about six months then and my left-wing wife didn’t dig this sudden interest in Oriental philosophy and Shoshone folk tales. Out of college, I spent the summer of 1951 as a log-scaler on an Indian reservation, where I dug the Berry Feast and later made up the poem about it, and then went on a long hike in the Olympic Mountains. Up in the mountains, all the notions that had been swarming in my head crystallized and sort or hung there until the Fall of that year I picked up a copy of D. T. Suzuki, writing about Zen, and read it while hitchhiking to a graduate fellowship at Indiana in anthropology. It finished the job, and although I stayed one semester at Indiana, I was through with the academic world and headed back West in ’52 for what proved to be five years of mountain jobs, scenes in San Francisco, Chinese language study, writing poetry, and so on, until I first came to Japan. Then I was at sea on a tanker for eight months, in San Francisco and back In Japan again. I love to roam around and I like tough self-discipline, I don’t mind hard work, and being poor never bothered me. I guess that’s what makes it possible to carry on like I do. Being free don’t mean evading necessity, it means outsmarting it.”

— From Gary Snyder, The Dharma Bum

A short 2009 video biography of Snyder:

More about the “poet laureate of Deep Ecology” HERE

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Anonymous September 20, 2011 at 8:02 pm

GRAYED down type in blockquote makes it hard to read. Revise color call.


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