Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Practice of the Wild

from Whispered Lineage
It was nice to read that Gary Snyder is still alive and well in American Smoke.  Ian Sinclair tracked him down at his 100-acre woods in Northern California, Kitkitdizze, which he originally bought with Alan Ginsberg and Dick Baker.  The name was derived from the Miwok word for bear clover, found in abundance in that part of the woods.  The retreat serves as a sanctuary for writers, poets, naturalists and other sympathetic souls who share Snyder's love for nature.

He never really considered himself one of the beats, even if Kerouac immortalized him as Japhy Ryder in The Dharma Bums.  Snyder considers this a piece of "fabulilsm" as the climb up the "Matterhorn" was real but Kerouac turned into something larger than it actually was.  It is probably my favorite of Kerouac's books, beginning in the foothills behind Berkley, where Snyder was teaching at the time, and extending inland to the higher peaks.

He was also great friends with Ginsberg but their poetry seemed to reach at opposite ends of the spectrum.  They purchased the property together back in the 60s, after Snyder had returned from Japan in the engine room of an oil tanker.  The wooded site became their sanctuary.

Sinclair mentions a documentary, Practice of the Wild, which was done in 2010.  Snyder is interviewed by Jim Harrison, also known for his rugged outdoor approach to life, personified in his books Sundog and Wolf.  Harrison is also known for his poetry.  The title comes from a collection of essays Snyder published that year.

Snyder received the Pulitzer prize for his collection of poems, Turtle Island, published in 1975, which begins with a piece on the Anasazi, or ancient ones, who inhabited the Four Corners Region of the Southwest.  He branches out from this starting point to take in a broad range of impressions.  I particularly like "The Bath," which he describes he and his wife giving their son Kai a bath in a sauna.

Really have been enjoying American Smoke as Ian Sinclair gives marvelous insights into a wide range of poets and writers who traversed the American continent, picking up their trails at various points.

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