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.”

Share Your Reflection



I heard Gary Snyder speak many years ago and still remember it -- with goosebumps. I love the picture of him that you've posted -- he looks like some kind of rugged tree.

What a fabulous description.

Hi Maggie, My friend Bill Paden, did the hanga print for a book of Gary Snyder's translations of Chinese poems (and one of his). I have copy 5 out of 100 hand printed by the Pied Oxen Printers in 1993 that I treasure.

A finger pointing toward the moon--remember the finger is not the moon. I think he is directing us to understand something which can't quite be described through words (or pointing) but rather, each of us must try to reach 'Cold Mountain' in order to accesss understanding.

With years of playful, careful, attentive investigation, Gary has honed his vision of interconnectedness, his sharp sensitivity, and his clarity. He knows how to laugh, he is an amazingly generous friend, and a sly jokester. His words ring like that proverbial temple bell!

I hope someone will post this as an audio of video streaming file so we can listen/view it far into the future! Gary Snyder has been a hero since my youth and an inspiration: wild west coast sage reading poetry like ripening savory fruit for the great vintage of all time!

I posted this for my students on Wednesday April 21st, and looking forward to the audio.

I posted this site, along with the City Arts. Interview, and trailer for Snyder's film, "Practice of the Wild," for my students on Wednesday. We're also looking forward to an audio of the poetry reading. What a remarkable soul, and great writer, both poetry and prose.
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Film Trailer: <http: 0="" 01="" 2010="""" the_practice_of_the_wild#the_practice_of_the_wild_trailer=""></http:></http:>

Please use my second post. Thank you.

How do you hear Gary Snyder read the above?