Reviews |


“Look Out: A Selection

of Writings”

By Gary Snyder

New Directions, 144pp, $10.95

I woke up this morning thinking of Gary Snyder. This is unusual. First thoughts are usually different – a kaleidoscope of images, bodily needs, errant longings.

Gary Snyder’s presentation at Odyssey Books Dec. 12 of his retrospective selection of poetry and prose “Look Out,” one of New Directions prestigious Bibelot series, went deep in me, very deep.

In 1969, I heard Snyder had returned from Japan, that he brought news of the next major change in consciousness, that he was circulating a manuscript for comment and critique of an essay entitled “Four Changes.” These changes are all about embracing the wounded (in ourselves) and healing the damage (to ourselves).

As we have careened along so wildly, so unconsciously for so long, we can manage only by projecting the mess on “the environment.” Easy, since there are environmental messes everywhere.

For a long time I blamed Snyder for bringing a message that could lead to so much despair. At the reading, I found myself listening for some way to keep blaming him, listening for some abandonment of us all to the corrosive elements, the grave doubts, the loss of faith this new consciousness contains. But no.

He stays with us, helps us get through. He made a point of reading “For the Children” which ends

stay together

learn the flowers

go light

Snyder’s coda was the reading of Burning No. 17, the last line of Thoreau’s “Walden:” “The sun is but a morning star.” Thoreau was among the best of those living their work, walking their talk. Snyder walks his talk.

– Stephen Burgess

Grass Valley

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