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The Gary Snyder Reader: Prose, Poetry, and Translations

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Gary Snyder has been a major cultural force in America for five decades-prize-winning poet, environmental activist, Zen Buddhist, and reluctant counterculture guru. Having expanded far beyond the Beat poems that first brought his work into the public eye, Snyder has produced a wide-ranging body of work that encompasses his fluency in Eastern literature and culture, his com Gary Snyder has been a major cultural force in America for five decades-prize-winning poet, environmental activist, Zen Buddhist, and reluctant counterculture guru. Having expanded far beyond the Beat poems that first brought his work into the public eye, Snyder has produced a wide-ranging body of work that encompasses his fluency in Eastern literature and culture, his commitment to the environment, and his concepts of humanity's place in the cosmos. The Gary Snyder Reader showcases the panoramic range of his literary vision in a single-volume survey that will appeal to students and general readers alike.


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Gary Snyder has been a major cultural force in America for five decades-prize-winning poet, environmental activist, Zen Buddhist, and reluctant counterculture guru. Having expanded far beyond the Beat poems that first brought his work into the public eye, Snyder has produced a wide-ranging body of work that encompasses his fluency in Eastern literature and culture, his com Gary Snyder has been a major cultural force in America for five decades-prize-winning poet, environmental activist, Zen Buddhist, and reluctant counterculture guru. Having expanded far beyond the Beat poems that first brought his work into the public eye, Snyder has produced a wide-ranging body of work that encompasses his fluency in Eastern literature and culture, his commitment to the environment, and his concepts of humanity's place in the cosmos. The Gary Snyder Reader showcases the panoramic range of his literary vision in a single-volume survey that will appeal to students and general readers alike.

30 review for The Gary Snyder Reader: Prose, Poetry, and Translations

  1. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    If I could give it six stars, I would. It's hard for me to express how much I've gotten out of a month-long journey through Snyder's work, from his undergraduate honor's thesis on a Native myth through the completion of his epic poem River & Mountains without End (which I'm going to read in its entirety soon). Reading Snyder from my vantage point at the Nada hermitage near Crestone, Colorado, overlooking the San Luis Valley, living mostly in silence, was ideal. No one writes more intelligently ( If I could give it six stars, I would. It's hard for me to express how much I've gotten out of a month-long journey through Snyder's work, from his undergraduate honor's thesis on a Native myth through the completion of his epic poem River & Mountains without End (which I'm going to read in its entirety soon). Reading Snyder from my vantage point at the Nada hermitage near Crestone, Colorado, overlooking the San Luis Valley, living mostly in silence, was ideal. No one writes more intelligently (or humorously) about what it means to live in a landscape. The poems and essays and interviews here cover Snyder's many physical, intellectual and spiritual travels--he insists that being grounded, as he is in northern California (he prefers to define place in terms of watershed, in his case the Yuba) is the best foundation for travel. He writes about his experience as a Zen acolyte in Japan, his time in a commune on an island off China, his wanderings through Asia and Australia. But most of all what it means to be a conscious citizen of Turtle Island. Along with James Baldwin, Snyder is probably the most important writer to me at this stage of my life. Anyone who doesn't want to commit to 650 pages can start with Snyder's book "The Practice of Place," his 60s classic "Earth House Hold" or his selected poems, No Nature.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Sasaki

    I don't really read poetry. Gary Snyder is the exception. Admittedly, like so many, I was introduced to Snyder through Kerouac's Dharma Bums, but Kerouac's appeal eventually wore off, while Snyder's has only grown stronger throughout the years. I first read Turtle Island and Mountains and Rivers Without End — both of which I loved and want to return to — but it was this anthology of various scraps of writing that spoke to me most deeply. Every time I read anything by Snyder, I am reminded of who I don't really read poetry. Gary Snyder is the exception. Admittedly, like so many, I was introduced to Snyder through Kerouac's Dharma Bums, but Kerouac's appeal eventually wore off, while Snyder's has only grown stronger throughout the years. I first read Turtle Island and Mountains and Rivers Without End — both of which I loved and want to return to — but it was this anthology of various scraps of writing that spoke to me most deeply. Every time I read anything by Snyder, I am reminded of who I wanted to become and who I'd still like to be.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    This is a great, beautiful and inspirational collection. I became aware of GS through Jack Kerouac and the Beats. Having said that though, GS - in my opinion - is no beat. He stands on his own. His background is Zen Buddhist; mine isn't. He writes mainly about his "own space", namely, Turtle Island (America); I'm European. All reasons why I shouldn't appreciate GS's work as much as I do. I bought this book on a whim. And it is the best buy I made in years. GS has a way of talking/writing about thin This is a great, beautiful and inspirational collection. I became aware of GS through Jack Kerouac and the Beats. Having said that though, GS - in my opinion - is no beat. He stands on his own. His background is Zen Buddhist; mine isn't. He writes mainly about his "own space", namely, Turtle Island (America); I'm European. All reasons why I shouldn't appreciate GS's work as much as I do. I bought this book on a whim. And it is the best buy I made in years. GS has a way of talking/writing about things that hooks you in. He is clearly very passionate about nature and conservation (again, things that have never been part of my world)and he has a knowledge that is deep and genuine. I can't help thinking about GS that "this guy Knows" with a capital K. I don't know the first thing about poetry, but yet again his poems had me hooked and revealed the mystery and simplicity of the things in life - and their preciousness. And so I dip into the book again to hear a timeless voice that is not America and not the Orient but purely Gary Snyder

  4. 4 out of 5

    David Anthony Sam

    Snyder's Best of Collection An excellent selection of the prose and poetry of Gary Snyder, this collection reveals the development of his spritual, ecological and poetical thinking. Throughout is a faith in the unity of all being. Some of the journal entries drag a bit and may be skipped; but if you are a student of Snyder, read the whole volume. Snyder's Best of Collection An excellent selection of the prose and poetry of Gary Snyder, this collection reveals the development of his spritual, ecological and poetical thinking. Throughout is a faith in the unity of all being. Some of the journal entries drag a bit and may be skipped; but if you are a student of Snyder, read the whole volume.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Gary Snyder is not my favorite. If I were to recommend any of his work, it would be his essays/prose from the mid-80's and after. He is an ecological advocate that truly understands the issues at hand and provides logical/practical answers to many of the problems we are facing in North America. To give a sampling of some of his earlier essay material: "Those who do not have the money or time to go to Japan or India, but think a great deal about the wisdom traditions, have remarkable results when Gary Snyder is not my favorite. If I were to recommend any of his work, it would be his essays/prose from the mid-80's and after. He is an ecological advocate that truly understands the issues at hand and provides logical/practical answers to many of the problems we are facing in North America. To give a sampling of some of his earlier essay material: "Those who do not have the money or time to go to Japan or India, but think a great deal about the wisdom traditions, have remarkable results when they take LSD." "Man is a beautiful animal. We know this because other animals admire us and love us." "There is a karmic connection between the peyote cult of the Indians and the discovery of lysergic acid in Switzerland." Call me a pessimist or a grumpy old shit or...call me whatever you want, but I cannot buy into that type of thought. But as I said, his later essays such as "Coming into the Watershed" are brilliant. As far as his poetry goes, the Back Country collection is a gritty sweaty ride in the back of a pickup truck. That part of America where people still shovel the earth, clean themselves off in the stream and then sit around the fire drinking coffee out of tin cups. Other books of poetry (Myths and Texts) are so steeped in Eastern and Native American mythology, elliptical structure and Snyderian shamanism, that they are largely impenetrable. I fully respect Snyder as an ecological advocate and as a poet and highly recommend him for those interested in the types of things I mentioned, but personally, I am happy to move on.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Clint

    Like most anthologies, a mixed bag. I generally liked the later essays and travel pieces better than the earlier ones. The interviews were not especially interesting to me for the most part, but they did have some first rate nuggets within them. Most of the ecological essays and poems seemed dated to me. Too much stating of the obvious, though that may not have been the case when they were written. Some of the poetry i liked a lot, some I did not care for. Again I tended to prefer the later works Like most anthologies, a mixed bag. I generally liked the later essays and travel pieces better than the earlier ones. The interviews were not especially interesting to me for the most part, but they did have some first rate nuggets within them. Most of the ecological essays and poems seemed dated to me. Too much stating of the obvious, though that may not have been the case when they were written. Some of the poetry i liked a lot, some I did not care for. Again I tended to prefer the later works. The translations were my favorite part of the collection. I wish Snyder would do more of this. Really liked the Cold Mountain Poems and the Sixteen T'ang Poems. My biggest criticism of the book is that too often Snyder's main subject is Gary Snyder and how good it is to be him. It gets a bit tiresome at times.

  7. 5 out of 5

    This Be the Verse

    I riprapped through this one years ago. I admire Gary Snyder--a poetic environmentalist and civic leader with a constant compassionate voice and self-awareness. He is as much an anthropologist as he is a linguist and poet. His Zen Buddhist mentality is authentic and has none of the pretentiousness I find from writers such as Natalie Goldberg. Some of the journal entries I could race through, but for the most part I found much value throughout this whole compilation. If you'd like to cut to some I riprapped through this one years ago. I admire Gary Snyder--a poetic environmentalist and civic leader with a constant compassionate voice and self-awareness. He is as much an anthropologist as he is a linguist and poet. His Zen Buddhist mentality is authentic and has none of the pretentiousness I find from writers such as Natalie Goldberg. Some of the journal entries I could race through, but for the most part I found much value throughout this whole compilation. If you'd like to cut to some of his powerful environmentalist essays, a few of which are in this collection, check out The Practice of the Wild. That wasn't much of a review, I realize, but I'm sure there are plenty of hearty reviews out there already. I just thought I'd do a "first write, best write" here and click Save! There.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jim McDonald

    This is the comprehensive collection of Gary Snyder’s writing. As Snyder himself observes, it’s like mining the strata of his life for nuggets and curiosities. He is blessed with a log career and each era holds wisdom that has shaped ecological thinking. What I enjoyed most were his early letters to friends in the 50s vernacular. Snyder is now 90 and the last spokesperson of his generation.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    o! my love for Gary Snyder is only burgeoning. this reader includes many prose pieces that the fan of his poetry would appreciate as they open up about his environmental and buddhist ideas. Snyder writes succinctly, describing the world around him with a realist's tounge. His poetry blends nature and humanity with a simplicity that is hard to match. o! my love for Gary Snyder is only burgeoning. this reader includes many prose pieces that the fan of his poetry would appreciate as they open up about his environmental and buddhist ideas. Snyder writes succinctly, describing the world around him with a realist's tounge. His poetry blends nature and humanity with a simplicity that is hard to match.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    After reading "The Dharma Bums", I really became interested in Gary Snyder as a writer/poet/political activist. This book is gigantic, and to say I read it all would be a lie, but some of his poetry is so personal and well-worded that I cut out some of his poems, framed them, and put them on my wall for inspiration. After reading "The Dharma Bums", I really became interested in Gary Snyder as a writer/poet/political activist. This book is gigantic, and to say I read it all would be a lie, but some of his poetry is so personal and well-worded that I cut out some of his poems, framed them, and put them on my wall for inspiration.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Terri Naughton

    Read this book as part of a poetry class. Unfortunately, after reading Mary Oliver, Robert Frost, Robinson Jeffers, and Jane Kenyon, I found the works of Gary Snyder to be too distant and metaphorical. Not for me, I'm afraid. Give me Mary Oliver any day. Read this book as part of a poetry class. Unfortunately, after reading Mary Oliver, Robert Frost, Robinson Jeffers, and Jane Kenyon, I found the works of Gary Snyder to be too distant and metaphorical. Not for me, I'm afraid. Give me Mary Oliver any day.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Vzenari

    I read only the poetry. I liked the poems generally. The reader excerpts what I suppose are the “best” poems, which maybe why I liked this set better than the separate originals. I learned more about the Chinese poems that inspired imagism.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    A beat poet with a nature twist. Kerouac fans remember Snyder as Japhy Ryder in Dharma Bums, he is seriously inspirational. Personal faves: By Frazer Creek Falls and Why Log Truck Drivers Rise Earlier Than Students of Zen. He's cool. A beat poet with a nature twist. Kerouac fans remember Snyder as Japhy Ryder in Dharma Bums, he is seriously inspirational. Personal faves: By Frazer Creek Falls and Why Log Truck Drivers Rise Earlier Than Students of Zen. He's cool.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    This is a great compilation of Snyder's work, I just wish it were organized a little better, but a good mix of poetry and prose. This is a great compilation of Snyder's work, I just wish it were organized a little better, but a good mix of poetry and prose.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Robert Rhodes

    An essential overview of this poet and writer's (still continuing) work. He's the only surviving Beat luminary for several very good reasons. An essential overview of this poet and writer's (still continuing) work. He's the only surviving Beat luminary for several very good reasons.

  16. 5 out of 5

    henry

    good poems, not alwys the best, but always good, and some amazing thought in the prose stuff. za-zen is rooted in the art of hunting and other revelations, spiritual, sociological, and ecological.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steve Wilson

    It's such an extensive anthology of Snyder's amazing work, there will be more to explore for later days. It's such an extensive anthology of Snyder's amazing work, there will be more to explore for later days.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Atticus

    "The archaic, esoteric, and the primitive traditions alike all teach that beyond transcendence is Great Play, and Transformation. After the mind-breaking Void, the emptiness of a million universes appearing and disappearing, all created things rushing into Krishna's devouring mouth; beyond the enlightenment that can say "these beings are dead already; go ahead and kill them, Arjuna" is a loving, simple awareness of the absolute beauty and preciousness of mice and weeds." This selection, taken fro "The archaic, esoteric, and the primitive traditions alike all teach that beyond transcendence is Great Play, and Transformation. After the mind-breaking Void, the emptiness of a million universes appearing and disappearing, all created things rushing into Krishna's devouring mouth; beyond the enlightenment that can say "these beings are dead already; go ahead and kill them, Arjuna" is a loving, simple awareness of the absolute beauty and preciousness of mice and weeds." This selection, taken from Snyder's essay entitled "Poetry and the Primitive" sums up both the collection and my thoughts on it all in one, better than I would have been able to otherwise. Snyder occupies a territory that few can do successfully, mixing prodigious talent, great creativity, and an endless breadth of diction in mastering both the finer arts of poetry and essaying. Dedicated to the boundless beauty of the natural world, he follows in the great footsteps of Robinson Jeffers, and performs equally as admirably. His poetry is as if the voice of St. Francis of Assisi, or, farther back, any number of Pagan Priests and Divining Druids-screaming to the snow-capped mountains and the low-throated valleys, and all who live in them, merely to say that God is in them as good as anywhere, or anything else.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Peter Ruark

    As with anything by Gary Snyder, this is an enjoyable read. My only complaint: heavy on the prose and light on the poetry. At the time I purchased this, I was really hoping to have a well-rounded introduction to his poetry. Yet, I discovered that his essays and his writings _about_ poetry are very worthwhile as well.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Vikas Datta

    Magnificent...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paul Kimberlee

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tom Murtha

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sean

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rachelle

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eugene Soyosa

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  30. 4 out of 5

    Roger

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