Gary Snyder Gave Me Goose Bumps

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 6:26 pm

Gary Snyder Gave Me Goose Bumps

Gary Snyder Signs a Book at Plymouth Congregational(photo: Kate Moos)
Gary Snyder, at 81, strong-voiced and vital, gave a reading in Minneapolis last night at Plymouth Congregational Church, part of their Literary Witness Program.
Snyder is often characterized as one of the Beats, but his habits of exploration and inquiry led him to a different experience and a different poetry than we associate with Kerouac and Ginsberg. Early, he became a student of Asian literature and Buddhism. His pioneering devotion to the environment and the idea of wildness in the American West has made him an icon for generations of poets, Buddhist aspirants, and defenders of the natural world.
Gary Snyder Speaks to a Rapt Audience at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis
He read his old poems, including his translations of Han-Shan, the famous Cold Mountain poems. He also read poems that are not yet in print — a generous gesture from a senior figure of his stature.
When I first read the Cold Mountain poems years ago, this stanza got stuck in my brain. I don’t know why.
It’s a kind of explanation of everything for me, and I’ve been reciting it to myself inwardly for the better part of my life. Hearing him read it aloud in person last night gave me goose bumps.

When men see Han-shan
They all say he’s crazy
And not much to look at —
Dressed in rags and hides.
They don’t get what I say
And I don’t talk their language.
All I can say to those I meet:
“Try and make it to Cold Mountain.”

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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