Sunday, July 22, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 38 (Gary Snyder)

danger on peaks
Snyder, Gary
danger on peaks

Purchased at a reading by the author at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo in, I think, 2005. I am pretty sure I bought it to give to Lori. It's also possible I bought at Talking Leaves in the days or weeks following the reading because she had told me she wanted to read it.

One of the last projects I worked on with Jonathan Skinner before he left Buffalo was to bring Gary Snyder in for a reading. Just Buffalo, the Gallery, Jonathan and Dennis Tedlock put the event together. It was one of the biggest poetry readings I have ever been to–outside of the Babel Series, anyhow. There were easily 450-500 people in attendance.

I remember my surprise at the sight of a line snaking from the front door of the gallery all the way out to Elmwood Avenue. There are probably about ten poets in America, if that, who can command an audience like that with nothing other than their name to use as publicity. Snyder is one of them.

He wore a red ascot tie and what was, if memory serves, a beige houndstooth jacket. He was much more formal than I expected for a member of the Beat Generation, so-called.

Dennis Tedlock took about twelve of us to dinner before the reading at a very expensive restaurant called Tempo. Lori and I were seated about as far from Snyder as possible, so I really didn't get a chance to talk to him.

I remember he had a very erect posture and that his chest stuck out slightly.

I don't remember anything he said or did except one thing.

At a certain point, we all went around the table introducing ourselves and when it got to Susan Howe, Snyder said, Ah, and then he put his hands together at about chest level, as if in prayer, and bowed his head in respect of the poet.

There were at least five other poets at the table. He did not bow to any of them.

from danger on peaks

Atomic Dawn

The first day I climbed Mt. St. Helens was August 13, 1945. 

Spirit Lake was far from the cities of the valley and news came slow. Though the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima August 6 and the second dropped on Nagasaki August 9, photographs didn't appear in the Portland Oregonian until August 12. Those papers must have been driven into Spirit Lake on the 13th. Early the morning of the 14th I walked over to the lodge to check the bulletin board. There were whole pages of the paper pinned up: photos of a blasted city from the air, the estimate of 150,000 dead in Hiroshima alone, the American scientist quoted as saying "nothing will grow there again for seventy years." The morning sun on my shoulders, the fir forest small and the big tree shadows; feet in thin moccasins feeling the ground, and my heart still one with the snow peak mountain at my back. Horrified, blaming scientists and politicians and the governments of the world, I swore a vow to myself, something like, "by the purity and beauty and permanence of Mt. St. Helens, I will fight against this cruel destructive power and those who would seek to use it, for all my life."

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