Mountains and Rivers Without End

Gary Snyder, Author Counterpoint LLC $20 (176p) ISBN 978-1-887178-20-4
A magnificent achievement, this epic poem belies the common take that Snyder's poetic career is notable mainly in the past tense and is refracted by the works of others. Without doubt, Snyder's exploration of nature, Zen Buddhism and his travels through unexplored corners of American society influenced the Beat writers of the 1950s and early 1960s, and some of his early works (Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems, 1965, and Turtle Island, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975) are masterpieces. This new, vital work sums up stylistic and thematic concerns by uniting 39 poems written between 1956 and 1996 (many published here for the first time) into a seamless whole that, like a modern Leaves of Grass, combines fascination with the varied particulars of the way people live with awe at the majesty of nature. Each of four sections is organized around a familiar Snyder focus: the demands made on people by nature and time (""The road that's followed goes forever;/ in half a minute crossed and left behind""); observation of the terrain he occupies (""Slash of calligraphy of freeways of cars"") and various American landscapes (""trucks on the freeways,/ Kenworth, Peterbilt, Mack,/ rumble diesel depths,/ like boulders bumping in an outwash glacial river""); and subtle tributes to those who have survived the last 40 years (""At the end of the ice age/ we are the bears, we are the ravens,/ We are the salmon/ in the gravel/ At the end of an ice age""). A concluding essay, ""The Making of Mountain and Rivers Without End,"" serves as an intellectual mini-autobiography and a gloss on some of the Eastern influences on the poem. This is a major work by a venerable master of post-WWII American poetry. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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