Although trying to define any set of poetics or methodology for either the San Francisco or Beat poets is a thorny issue at best, it can be said that many of their aesthetic preoccupations overlapped, especially as seen in the extensions and revitalizations of an earlier American generation in what has come to be labeled "open form" or "organic" poetry (see prosody and free verse and ars poeticas). Similarities can also be seen in the revival of oral poetry and the power of performance (see poetry in performance), experimentation with confessional modes of poetry, through the widespread use of drugs and sexual freedom as vehicles for creative expression, and, notably for Snyder, a commitment to Eastern religions. Snyder was appointed to the California Arts Council in 1974, where he served for six years as an active member. He has also been involved in local, regional, and national political and educational efforts that include the establishment of "the Art of the Wild," an annual conference focused on writing and issues concerning the environment. Snyder has taught creative writing at the University of California, Davis, since 1985. He won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry (1970), the American Book Award for poetry (1983), and the Bollingen Prize (1997). He has also received an American Academy of Arts and Letters award (1987) and the Poetry Society of America Shelley Memorial Award (1986), as well as several other awards and fellowships.
Snyder's experiences as a tanker seaman, logger, ranger, and trail-crew member in the Pacific Northwest were inspirations for his first two collections of poetry, riprap (1959) and Myths and Texts (1960). Soon after the Six Gallery reading, Snyder began a long 15-year stint traveling between India, Japan, China, and the United States. During these travels he learned to speak and write Chinese and Japanese, and he became a devout zen Buddhist in the Rinzai tradition. Prominent in Six Selections from Mountains and Rivers without End, Plus One (1965), a continuing cycle of poems affecting Mountains and Rivers Without End (1996), Cold Mountain Poems (1965), The Back Country (1967), and Regarding Wave (1969) braids the everyday with the discipline of Zen Buddhism and other East Asian religious-philosophic practices. These collections also address what Snyder sees as the ethical and philo sophic failures of Western culture juxtaposed against the values of Buddhism and traditions of American Indian culture. These preoccupations resonate throughout his poetry and manifest themselves in Sny-der's distinct stylizations of bare simplicity, directness, and the attempts to render language as material, where "each rock a word / a creek washed stone" ("riprap" ). This rendering is expressed in terms of what Snyder often refers to as the juxtapositional logic of "riprapping" (Afterword), a mode in which words and images are placed "side by side" to "work like sharp blows on the mind" ("Statement" 421). Riprapping draws its energy from the compositional impulses of many modernist poets, seen especially in what Pound labeled the ideogrammic method (see imagist school). "Riprap" (1959), "Piute Creek" (1965), and other poems are excellent examples of Snyder's efforts to knit poetry to the physicality of the body, to work, and to the sheer immediacy of the real. As Snyder points out in "Piute Creek," "A clear, attentive mind / Has no meaning but that / Which sees is truly seen." The point is not so much to "show the world through the prism of language" but to see the world "without any prism of language, and to bring that seeing into language" (Snyder "What Poetry" 67).
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