Back on the Fire: Essays by Gary Snyder | …

Snyder met when the latter sought Snyder out on the recommendation of . Then, through Ginsberg, Snyder and Kerouac came to know each other. This period provided the materials for Kerouac's novel , and Snyder was the inspiration for the novel's main character, Japhy Ryder, in the same way had inspired Dean Moriarty in . As the large majority of people in the Beat movement had urban backgrounds, writers like Ginsberg and Kerouac found Snyder, with his backcountry and manual-labor experience and interest in things rural, a refreshing and almost exotic individual. later referred to Snyder as 'the Thoreau of the Beat Generation'.

Back on the Fire: Essays by Gary Snyder

During the period between 1956 and 1969, he went back and forth between California and Japan, studying Zen, working on translations with Ruth Fuller Sasaki, and finally living for a while with a group of other people on the small, volcanic island of . His previous study of written Chinese assisted his immersion in the Zen tradition (with its roots in China) and enabled him to take on certain professional projects while he was living in Japan. Snyder received the Zen precepts and a dharma name (, "Listen to the Wind"), and lived sometimes as a de facto monk, but never registered to become a priest and planned eventually to return to the United States to 'turn the wheel of the dharma'. He was married from 1960 to 1965 to Joanne Kyger, who lived with him in Japan. During this time, he published a collection of his poems from the early to mid '50s, (1960), and (1965). This last was the beginning of a project that he was to continue working on until the late 1990s. Much of Snyder's poetry expresses experiences, environments, and insights involved with the work he has done for a living: logger, fire-lookout, steam-freighter crew, translator, carpenter, and itinerant poet, among other things. During his years in Japan, Snyder was also was initiated into , a form of ancient Japanese , (see also ). In the early 1960s he traveled for six months through India with his wife Joanne, , and Peter Orlovsky. Snyder and Joanne Kyger separated soon after a trip to India, and divorced in 1965.


Back on the Fire: Essays by Gary Snyder | LibraryThing

Cover of Gary Snyder’s Riprap, 1959. (PS3569 .N88R49 1959. Marvin Tatum Collection of Contemporary Literature. Image by Petrina Jackson).

Snyder is among those writers who have sought to dis-entrench conventional thinking about primitive peoples that has viewed them as simple-minded, ignorantly superstitious, brutish, and prone to violent emotionalism. In the 1960s Snyder developed a "" view akin to the "post-modernist" theory of French Sociologist . The "re-tribalization" of the modern, mass-society world envisioned by , with all of the ominous, dystopian possibilities that McLuhan warned of, subsequently accepted by many modern intellectuals, is not the future that Snyder expects or works toward. Snyder's is a positive interpretation of the tribe and of the possible future. Todd Ensign describes Snyder's interpretation as blending ancient tribal beliefs and traditions, philosophy, physicality, and nature with politics to create his own form of Postmodern-environmentalism. Snyder rejects the perspective which portrays nature and humanity in direct opposition to one another. Instead, he chooses to write from multiple viewpoints. He purposely sets out to bring about change on the emotional, physical, and political levels by emphasizing the ecological problems faced by today's society.


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“Siberian Outpost,” written by Gary Snyder. Woodcut by Josef Beery, 2010. (Broadside 2010.S58. Courtesy of Gary Snyder. Image by Petrina Jackson).

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Back cover of Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island. Photograph by Frederic Brunke. (PS3569 .N88T8 1974. Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Image by Petrina Jackson).

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American poet Gary Snyder met Allen Ginsberg when they both read at the Six Gallery event in San Francisco in October 7, 1955, thus cementing his identity with the Beat poets and writers. He was an influential member of the San Francisco Renaissance before moving to Japan to study Zen Buddhism in 1955. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Turtle Island in 1974, and is also well known as an essayist, lecturer, and environmental activist.
A search of our online catalog shows 61 entries for Mr. Snyder dating from 1946.
Shown here is a first printing of Riprap and a broadside titled “Siberian Outpost” that he made on the occasion of a visit to Brown College at the University of Virginia in 2010. The broadside was printed by Josef Beery.

Gary Snyder (born May 8, 1930) is an American man of letters

Snyder has also commented "The term Beat is better used for a smaller group of writers ... the immediate group around Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, plus and a few others. Many of us ... belong together in the category of the San Francisco Renaissance. ... Still, beat can also be defined as a particular state of mind ... and I was in that mind for a while".