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On first looking into Gary Snyder

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Among the books I rescued from my father's house were six books of poems by Gary Snyder. I don't know for sure, but I think Snyder was one of Peter's favorite poets. I've now read or skimmed a couple dozen of the poems, and though they mostly aren't my cup of tea, I think I can see some of what Peter liked about them: the evocation of places up and down the West coast, the connection with nature and with ordinary daily life, the infusion of Zen (as I understand it from Wikipedia, Snyder lived and studied in Japan at various Buddhist temples for some years), the conjunction of manual labor with well-read intellectual curiosity. (Snyder worked as a logger, as a carpenter, and on a steam-freighter crew, among other jobs; Peter at various times worked as a ditch-digger, a carpenter, a shipfitter-welder, a janitor, a dish-washer, and more.)

I'm putting most of the Snyder books in the giveaway box, but I did rather like one poem I read, “Axe Handles,” focused around creating a hatchet with his young son. I think part of my liking of this was in the context of thinking about my father and the ways he participated in shaping who I am, but mostly I just like what it says and how it comes together.

That's the title poem in the book Axe Handles; I think I'll keep this book, or at least read more of it. A few pages later there's a poem called “River in the Valley”; I don't love it overall, but I do like the ending:

One boy asks, “where do rivers start?”

in threads in hills, and gather down to here—

but the river

is all of it everywhere,

all flowing at once,

all one place.

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