No Nature

Gary Snyder, Author Pantheon Books $25 (390p) ISBN 978-0-679-41385-1

This first selected edition of Snyder's poetry offers an overview of a career spanning more than 30 years. Although he first came to prominence as a poet of the Beat Generation, Snyder's focus on nature and environmentalism has given his work a new urgency--and perhaps a greater staying power than that of his contemporaries. Turtle Island , his Pulitzer Prize-winning volume, seems to have marked the high tide of his career, when his themes (the environment, Buddhism, human arrogance) were those of the Vietnam era generally. But ultimately Snyder's most powerful poems are those that offer not so much a critique as a vision. Similarly, his study of Eastern languages and religion is most moving not when he claims that power ``comes out of the seed-syllables of mantras,'' but when he integrates an Eastern sensibility into his own. Neither quaint nor sentimental in his outlook, Snyder approaches nature as one who has depended on it for his livelihood, not just sought it out for relaxation. And he insists, in his idea of ``no nature,'' that the dichotomy between humanity and nature is a false one. Consistent rather than surprising, Snyder seeks through his art to ``Taste all, and hand the knowledge down.'' (Oct.)
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