Saturday, October 18, 2008

Readings: Zen Master

The October 20, 2008 edition of The New Yorker features an excellent profile by Dana Goodyear of the poet, Gary Snyder. Unfortunately, it seems that only this abstract of the article is available online.

I’ve been reading Snyder since my college days, and it is good to be reminded that at age 78 he is alive and well.

In addition to being a prize-winning poet, essayist, translator, scholar and teacher, Snyder is also a serious environmentalist who was raised in and near the woods of the Pacific northwest. I recommend his recent book of essays, Back on the Fire, to anyone who is feeling a little greenish, or yearning to feel that way.

I own, and highly recommend to anyone who has not read Snyder over the years and would like to play catch-up, the anthology The Gary Snyder Reader. This book covers his whole career and includes poems, translations (I particularly like his rendition of the Chinese poet “Cold Mountain”), and various prose pieces.

Dana Goodyear’s article inspired me to hit the stacks and borrow Snyder’s book-length poem Mountains and Rivers Without End. I look forward to getting down to it. The volume begins with an epigraph by Milarepa:

The notion of Emptiness engenders Compassion.

Ah, if only…