Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Riprap by Gary Snyder
Origin Press, Kyoto Japan, 1959


Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rock and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

Riprap by Gary Snyder
Counterpoint, 2009

[click on image above for film ~ 1-1/2 hours]

Dear A —

Many thanks, again, for putting into my hands this You Tube on the Gary Snyder ~ Riprap 50 years happening at Berkeley. It wasn’t the one I had thought I might have seen earlier last year, when Snyder did read during the Lunch Poems series. A fine reading from a brilliant man and storyteller.

Of everyone involved in this one-and-a-half-hour ceremony, Robert Hass and Lyn Hejinian seemed most with-it for an audience. Hass traipses through his thoughts like some hobo, but I like that about him, a befuddled thoughtfulness. I’ve watched him do this with an Amiri Baraka introduction and others in this same Berkeley location. I believe he is a fine teacher, still a teacher. Lyn Hejinian is refreshing, spry, girlish, erudite, humble and nicely playful with all themes she touches onto in her own talk. She makes Snyder’s prehensile approach to nearly everything, seem more like she is the dharma bum.

This is to take nothing away from Snyder's overall fellowship and willingness to be involved with a gathering — he comes to play. His chuckle throughout his reading and remembrances is endearing and almost the final sign of a benign hermit senility — he who laughs at his own jokes. He's now old enough and wise enough and embraces that devil-may-care enough to be meeting his young trail guide self and summing it up with a grin and one more chuckle. He's as sharp as any watchdog, as cunning as any stellar jay.

But not one mention to Cid Corman from Snyder on the 50th anniversary of Riprap? That's unfortunate, maybe even personal. Not that I'll lose any sleep, but it would have been both professional and historical to give a wave to its original publisher, who made this small book and all his small books out of small dreams and probably some begging. Again, Hass knew how to take care of this oversight. And when Snyder spoke of how much more “famous” he is in China than in America, well that was about enough for me. Likewise, having endured the sad and quite unprepared Michael McClure offering. Ah showbiz.

In a better world I would wish kudos given to all golden California boys and girls and especially spreading attention back onto Kenneth Rexroth and Jaime de Angulo, the forefathers here of any deep ecology movement.

The poems are beautiful, blue-skyed, and complete. The less said the more said. Or as Ornette Coleman once put it: "You feel this, you play this."