Friday, February 29, 2008

At Maple Bridge

I was heartened on the Underground the other day to see a Gary Snyder poem in the carriage among the adverts: 'On Maple Bridge' (1984) paired with his translation of 'Maple Bridge Night Mooring' (c.765) by Chang Chi. Back in 765, the temple bell could be heard by Chang Chi in his boat; Gary Snyder noted that its sound had now travelled far across the sea. I think it was possible to hear it faintly down in the Victoria Line amid the crush of morning commuters.

I was even more pleased to spot on YouTube recently some great footage of a Gary Snyder reading. Here are the links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

This is the 300th post on Some Landscapes, and I think it's sometimes a little hard to see coherent patterns and themes emerging here. I've been looking again at Gary Snyder: Dimensions of a Life, a festschrift published back in 1991 by the Sierra Club. It includes an essay by Peter Coyote describing a cross-referenced library card index system Snyder has evolved, to organise his quotes, thoughts and ideas. There is, of course, a big step between this simple academic kind of organisation and the ability to organise one's perceptions of the world. Coyote writes that Snyder does this and then goes a step further again, by actually 'identifying with the patterns he perceives... he might, for instance, feel that the back of his head opens onto the Sierra mountain range, and that that range is his spine.' It's natural to identify Snyder with the Sierra landscape. Flicking back to a poem in the same book, 'September Ridge' by Will Peterson, there's a quote from Snyder, writing in Japan more than fifty years ago, that 'the best wandering mountains in the world may be the high sierra - no bugs, no rain, no people, clear cool sunshine & hundreds of square miles of alpine terrain...'

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