Gary Snyder Essay - Snyder, Gary (Vol. 9)

Snyder, Gary (Vol. 9)

Snyder, Gary 1930–

An American poet and translator, Snyder was once affiliated with the "beat" poets of San Francisco. His early work reflected his love of the natural beauty and heritage of the Pacific Coast: the Sierra Nevadas and the rituals of western Indian tribes are among the subjects of his early poems. Since then Snyder's interests in fields as diverse as Zen Buddhism and forestry have given him inspiration for his poetry. These interests have coalesced to create a poetry that expresses the strivings of the human soul to seek the internal peace and integration that is mirrored in the wilderness. His poetic language possesses a powerful quality, and his verse is sensitively structured. Snyder won the Pulitzer Prize in 1974. (See also CLC, Vols. 1, 2, 5, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 17-20, rev. ed.)

Snyder is a lucid and intense didact, and wonderfully graceful, never pompous, rarely self-congratulatory, though he has taken on a difficult and delicate rôle [in Turtle Island], having made himself spokesman for the most oppressed, taxed and unrepresented of all classes: the grasslands, trees and animals who are the greater part of the world he sees and loves so dearly. The love is in the seeing, and Snyder has always seen with a thrilling clarity of perception…. He has a compelling vision of our relationship with this living nature, which is our nature, what it is and what it must be if we/nature survive on this planet, and his art serves that vision unwaveringly. It's not as consistently rich and subtle an art as it was in Myths & Texts—the language is sometimes looser, his ear more erratic, and sentences sometimes flattened by the speed or the need to explain—but this work is more important right now than the crafting of flawless poems, he understands the vision and the work more clearly now, and we understand that his various rôles of poet, worker, priest, teacher, ecologist, and political wanderspeaker are not so much rôles as aspects of his way of being in the world. He still writes powerfully and with an unfailing calmness and gaiety…. He draws his strength from the realization that

at the heart of things is some kind of serene and ecstatic process which is beyond qualities and beyond birth-and-death.

                                          (pp. 195-96)

It is true that the book is deeply unified by his sense of mission, to tell what human existence is like in the United States and what it could be, must be, on Turtle Island, but this missionary is really a joyful poet, and the gratitude and celebration at the heart of his view of life often overwhelm the necessity to teach and explain. So the teaching is done silently, which is the best way to do it…. [There] are several of those small exquisite poems of which Snyder is a master, poems that expand in the mind and embody all that this poet knows and that we suddenly realize, in our pleasure and concentration, we know too. (pp. 196-97)

Robert Mezey, in Western Humanities Review (copyright, 1974, University of Utah), Spring, 1975.

If Snyder prefers to scant his accomplishments as anthropologist, linguist, teacher, translator, and poet—the "highbrow" and intellectual—and to stress his hardier roles as woodsman, hunter, able-bodied seaman, or hobo—the "lowbrow" and common man—he cannot quite conceal the intellect or learning in his work, which everywhere reveals his considerable knowledge of anthropology, linguistics, Zen Buddhism, history, and other arcane lore. His poetic persona is that of the ordinary man of Walt Whitman, but even Whitman exaggerated his "ordinariness" (as well as his "extraordinariness"), and so does Snyder. Yet a poet does more than choose his tradition; in a very real sense he is chosen by it as well, and Snyder has come to the reservoirs of the Orient and of the American Indian not only as an act of will but out of a deep-seated and passionate need. Whatever his university degrees and academic accomplishments, he wishes to be considered a poet of ordinary men, writing in a language shaped in their idiom; whatever his origins, he has deliberately identified himself with cultures other than his own. Though we must respect and understand his intentions, we are not required to let them mislead our view of what he has, in fact, achieved. (pp. 27-8)

Snyder's roots are deep in Whitman and the Transcendentalists of New England, whose own roots were in German idealism, English romanticism, and Oriental (chiefly Hindu) mysticism. Like Whitman, Snyder celebrates nature, the simple, the animal, the sexual, the tribal, the self. Like Whitman, he speaks in the voice of a highly personal persona rooted in his own experience but by no means identical with it. Like Whitman, he sees man as an indissoluble part of the natural environment, flourishing when he accepts and adapts to that natural heritage, creating a hell on earth and within himself when he is separated from it by his intellect and its technological and societal creations. Like Whitman and Thoreau, though more thoroughly and intensely, Snyder wishes to live in nature and there to confront himself and the essentials, and like Emerson and Thoreau, he does not wish to be saddled with things. Like Whitman and Thoreau, he celebrates physical labor, its joys and its ability to educate one in the "true" sense. Snyder maintains truly though perhaps not all-inclusively that his poetics have been most influenced by the jobs he has held, that he has learned how to place words in a line by moving stones. Work, he says, is for him a form of play, and he has learned most from such work as he has performed. From this arises his definition of poetry in "Poetry and the Primitive" as "the skilled and inspired use of the voice and language to embody rare and powerful states of mind that are in immediate origin personal to the singer, but at deep levels common to all who listen…. Poetry must sing or speak from authentic experience."

Like Emerson, Snyder understands that nature can be approached and understood not by reason but only by intuition. In this he has gone beyond Transcendentalism's "meditation" to the disciplines of Zen Buddhism, the abandonments of primitive ritual, the depths of dream and myth, and to the release of drugs—peyote, hashish, LSD—to help pierce the phenomenal veil of nature and thereby to enter into its noumenal reality. Like Emerson, he perceives that noumenal reality not as an anthropomorphic God, but possibly as a form of harmonious Oversoul.

A more stoic and pessimistic note in Snyder's poetry, deriving in part from Robinson Jeffers, is a sense of the inescapability of natural systems and how men are part of them. Man, Snyder recognizes, is a destroyer and Anglo-Saxon man particularly pernicious, though he is by no means alone, for among others even the Chinese made deserts by chopping down their trees, and to build their galleys the Romans logged off the Yugoslav hills and left them bare. (pp. 29-30)

Like other poets in the bardic tradition, and like the Amerindians he admires, Snyder wishes to use colloquial speech, folkways, and folk myth as means of examining the lives of common men in order to clarify and communicate their experience to them. In Snyder this combines qualities of the "Beat" poets "on the road" and the Japanese itinerant poets—like Basho—with those of the wandering Indian shaman and the vagrant bindlestiffs in the Wobbly hobo camps and union halls. Snyder's approach is subsumed by the old Whitmanesque emphases on the flesh and spontaneity. (p. 33)

Snyder's work reveals his profound hatred for the Judeo-Christian tradition, which he credits with the destruction and exploitation of the sacred in man and physical nature by its alliance with and support of a predatory capitalism…. But Christian love continues to haunt Snyder's work and he sees it in various Christian (and other) heresies which over mankind's history have been suppressed by various orthodoxies without being destroyed…. From the Hebrew prophets and the Christian sages Snyder extracts the dream of the Millennium which is "a dream handed down right to our own time—of ecological balance, classless society, social and economic freedom" that is as much Amerindian as Wobbly, as much ecological as socialist, as much the best of the pagan as of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The major problem in Snyder's poetry is that he can rarely achieve the unity of thought and language required of a good poem. Usually, he is caught up in that poetic quick-sand that swallows so much of the work of Whitman and Carlos Williams and the "Beats": the cataloging of natural objects, mundane events, and sensory impressions until they are meaningless and boring. In short, there is a failure of poetic discrimination and organization which is in itself a failure of sensibility. This sort of cataloging is rooted in the notion that all Snyder's experiences, thoughts, and perceptions, as well as those of his friends, are interesting to others; and it, too, arises out of the Transcendentalist notion that in essence every man is a paradigm of all men and of mankind. It produces a preoccupation with personal anecdote that is too often trivial and pretentious…. Moreover, it leads to Snyder's memorializing his own most banal thoughts and unimportant activities as though they had some profound and widespread significance. Consequently, a great deal of the poetry is the enshrining of casual observations and recollections, unyoked to broader human concerns and rendered in a language devoid of originality or beauty. If either the experiences or the language are meaningful to Snyder, he fails to communicate their importance to his readers. (pp. 34, 36-7)

One of the great problems for all poets in trying to see things freshly and eternally at the same time is: how do you make it new? Or to apply to his poetic the old I.W.W. slogan that Snyder is so fond of using in other contexts: how do you shape the new within the shell of the old? In the main, Snyder's poetry fails to do just that, but relies instead on a relatively commonplace and perfunctory system of poetic notation for the old so that, instead of creating the uniqueness and diversity he extols, Snyder lapses into a homogeneity and repetitiveness that quickly palls and often appalls.

Yet there are perhaps a dozen poems that are really fine—and of how many poets can one say that? If Snyder is by no means a great poet, he does have some important things to say about twentieth-century man's pell-mell progress toward environmental and societal disaster, toward destroying the place in which he lives, his home, the earth, as well as his mind, body and spirit; and occasionally, though only occasionally, he is able to embody what he has to say in memorable language, in striking form. (pp. 37-8)

Abraham Rothberg, "A Passage to More than India: The Poetry of Gary Snyder," in Southwest Review (© 1976 by Southern Methodist University Press), Winter, 1976, pp. 26-38.

Critical claims for the value and significance of Gary Snyder's poetry generally direct attention to the achievements of his perfected ecological style—those poems of his that, most notably in the collection The Back Country (1968), successfully present and embody assumptions of unity, balance and interrelationship between man and the natural environment. Snyder emerges from these discussions as the ecological poet par excellence, the writer who not only wants to recall us to nature "as the ultimate ground of human affairs" but who has developed a poetic style embodying and promoting a mode of consciousness with which to do it, a mode that eliminates the problem of relationship between man and nature, subject and object, by assuming their unity a priori or supporting it with the evidence of ecology itself…. His poems teach us how to see nature and how to see ourselves in nature, not through discursive or didactic argument but by dramatizing states of mind that pose an alternative to the culture—and ego—driven attitudes by which we normally live. (p. 158)

But helpful and valid as this view of his work is (especially as an answer to dissenting critics who see Snyder as a participant in a "formless project"), it fails to take into account any sense of his development, the fact that the expression of ecological consciousness in his work, while present as a goal from the beginning, is arrived at only gradually in terms of actual poetic achievement….

[Snyder's] early poetry raises issues and suggests contexts for his work that are surprisingly broad for a poet who is all too often associated exclusively with "nature" and ecological politics. To be sure, an examination of his early work can show where Snyder has come from and how his characteristic style took shape. But the more interesting context for such a discussion … is the question of what sort of poetics emerges from work necessarily concerned with initiating a career and establishing a poetic identity at a time (the middle and late 1950's) when the literary environment is still dominated by a modernism that is nevertheless in the process, as it now seems to us, of breaking up. (p. 159)

[What] stands in the way of simply asserting, with some periodizing critics, that poets like Snyder must be seen as "post-modern," their work the outcome of a sharp and total break with the "modernist" past, is the complicating fact (and I am hardly the first to point it out) that it is just such breaks with the past that modernism counsels…. What we have in American literature … is a paradoxical history of denials of history, a tradition of new starts that acknowledge no precedents, so that modernism here is best understood not as an avant-garde, the latest development of a historical trend or tradition, but as a primitivistic ignorance or deconstructive denial of the past. A book like Snyder's Riprap must be seen as participating in this paradoxical history. Inasmuch as it undertakes to clear the ground and establish a space for itself in a crowded literary landscape, it enters into a tradition of such gestures, and to that extent claims for its post-modernism are deeply qualified. On the other hand, in appropriating a space cleared of all example and precedent and thus situating itself in a kind of pre historical position, it raises the most radical questions about its own identity and status as literature, as though literature were a destiny it could somehow choose to avoid. It will be necessary, in any case, to be aware of both sides of the paradox in examining the themes and language of Riprap, in seeing how history informs what is nevertheless "new" or at least radically redefined in Snyder's first published poems.

In a first book the question of what a poet can do can usually be answered through a consideration of how well he does what others have done before him, and Snyder is no exception. The presence of Pound, Williams and, closer to home, Kenneth Rexroth is clear in Riprap's objectivity, terse rhythms and plain diction. But the presence is not overwhelming, and these features are common enough in contemporary verse style to allow Snyder enough scope to work in his own preoccupations. As soon as the influences are recognized, moreover, one begins to notice differences and qualifications—a prosody and syntax, for example, which, if they resemble Rexroth's, seem deliberately less smooth, with hardly any enjambment and much greater concentration on the single line as the rhythmic unit of speech…. Snyder's early lyrics … are largely narrative or dramatic in structure and more referential than reflexive in effect, clearly flirting … with the mere description or mimetic copying that Williams disparages in Spring & All. Snyder's poems, in fact, are much more literal and metonymic than metaphoric, deriving their structure from the external order of things and events in the world rather than from any internal imaginative order, their concrete referentiality amounting, I would argue, to a far greater acceptance of a mimetic relationship between poem and world than the modernists either wanted or allowed in their work…. Snyder aims to minimize and even erase his creative presence in the poem, trying in this way to suggest … that nature itself is the poet. (pp. 160-62)

Once it is granted that the literalism, referentiality and metonymic tendencies of Snyder's style bespeak an acceptance of mimesis, however qualified but broadly understood as a hope or faith or conviction that there is an authentic relationship between the words of a poem and what they refer to—along with the necessary corollary of any mimetic theory that the thing represented, the external world, is the primary locus of value, as opposed to the poem itself—then it is possible to begin to see distinctions between Snyder's poetics and that of his modernist predecessors. One major difference clearly lies in their conceptions of the poem, and another in their attitudes toward language. Modernist poetics typically emphasizes the way in which a poem is a separate autonomous object, a primary, independent reality unto itself…. (p. 164)

For a poet like Snyder … faced, at the beginning of his career, with several influential examples of making it new and the imperative to do so himself, the poem pretty much ceases to be a self-involved or autotelic verbal activity and the idealization of language turns to distrust, as in his remark that the poet must steer "a course between crystal clouds of utterly incommunicable non-verbal states—and the gleaming daggers and glittering nets of language." He is aware, on the one hand, of a reality that cannot be brought over into language at all and, on the other, of the problem presented by language that is seen as a danger and a trap, albeit an attractive one, to be avoided. This sense of boundaries, as his early work itself suggests, defines the legitimate space of a poetry that is much more in touch with empirical reality, trying not to resist its pressures but to accept them as a determinant of form in harmonious cooperation with the mind, checking the mind's tendencies to impress its own forms and language on the landscape. It is the drama of this acceptance that is one of the main themes of Riprap, and it accounts for poems which not only valorize experience over language but which often address themselves directly to the limits of language as a conceptualizing medium—a rather self-limiting activity, one might think, for a poet, but one which is in accord with Snyder's sense of poetry's reduced possibilities. (p. 165)

What bridge can there be … between a world without words and a language whose potential for distortion and excess is unabated?… [The] answer can only be the poet himself, but the poet properly informed by a sense of his own limitations and those of his medium, the awareness that the more he does to call attention to his activity as a poet the greater the risk that he will ruin his efforts by either trespassing into the zone of the "utterly incommunicable" or falling a prey to language that pursues its own exclusive reality. Give these right limits, this Scylla and Charybdis situation, craft for Snyder becomes a matter, as he puts it, of steering a course between them, and his major function in the poem is to allow things to speak as much as possible for themselves, in a language stripped of subjective preconception and historial or cultural encrustation, the very process that "Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout" dramatizes.

It is at this point in his poetics, moreover, that Snyder finds himself on common ground with some of the aims and values of modern poetry in general, particularly with its "objectivist" desire to encounter reality directly and immediately…. [In] Snyder's early work, in addition to his respect for a reality inaccessible to language and his distrust of language itself, [this desire] takes the form of a drive toward reification and demystification, the denial and displacement of the abstract and the systematized by concrete experience, from which the very poems he is writing are not exempt. But here he has already surpassed modernist assumptions about the poem. In his anxiety to clear the ground, Snyder aims to produce a pre-literature that can sometimes appear to the reader as an anti-literature, a poetry built entirely of sense-impression against myth (in Snyder's own terms) that seems to be on the way, in its appreciation of the universe as "infinitely blank" …, to complete aphasia or silence. In accord with these aims but unlike the modernists, he foregoes any claim that poetic language or the poetic context provides a unique access to knowledge of essential reality. Such knowledge for Snyder is apprehended in an existential act of perception prior to poetic composition which the poem can later dramatize and reflect. But the poem itself is no longer the idealized locus of any subject/object encounter. It is precisely the privileged status of the poem (accorded to it by a modernism intent upon the uniqueness of aesthetic experience) that Snyder's writing calls into question as part of its general rejection or redefinition of history, tradition, culture, myth and literature itself, all finally seen as irrelevant to a reality that is prior to language, custom and culture. For it is Snyder's ultimate and most radical assumption that he can break out of what Ernst Cassirer calls man's inevitably "symbolic universe" and work his way back to a purely physical one, reconstructing the "seamless web" of man and nature, the enveloping silence of their primordial relationship, that language originally shattered.

The poems in Riprap which most clearly embody this assumption and which are written according to the strictures that it entails are primarily those dealing with experience in the wilderness, experience in which the speaker finds, first and foremost, that "I cannot remember things I once read," that ordinary mental experience has somehow been altered…. [Nature] itself in these early poems performs the function of clearing the mind that Snyder will later ascribe to meditation. And when the mind is cleared it is "Words and books" that are "Gone in the dry air," leaving the mind in a state of disciplined attentiveness that allows it to interpenetrate with physical reality…. [It] is the problem of readying the mind for such interpenetration more than the interpenetration itself that these poems, for the most part, seem to dwell upon. They are almost celebrations of those moments when the mind's resistances have been overcome and the difficult transition has been made from ordinary consciousness to a state in which the mind has dropped its symbolic burden of words, books, abstractions, even personal history and identity—whatever might stand in the way of a direct, unhampered perception of things. Of course this is precisely the kind of perception that Cassirer denies is any longer possible for man, who, he says, "has so enveloped himself in linguistic forms, in artistic images, in mythical symbols or religious rites that he cannot see or know anything except by the interposition of this artificial medium." Snyder's position, on the other hand, despite the fact that its difficulties, particularly in these early poems, are acknowledged and dramatized, implies that it is these very artificial media that must be removed before any real perception can take place; and these media include, we might note, such "linguistic forms" as poems. In this sense the possibilities of poetry have indeed been reduced for Snyder, but such a reduction seems to be demanded by an epistemology radically at odds with the neo-Kantian assumptions of a philosophy like Cassirer's, a philosophy for which no relationship between self and world is possible without the mediation of symbolic forms that reconstitute the world in their own terms and thus make it available to human consciousness.

Snyder's epistemological radicalism, however, is most crucial in its implications for poetics. While Cassirer's philosophy, in its compatibility with modernist, specifically symbolist notions of the poem as a cognitive structure affording access to an otherwise hidden reality, demands poetry, so to speak, as one of several precious avenues to truth, Snyder's stance, as we have seen, verges more and more towards silence and suggests that the poem, far from constituting a medium for relationship between self and world, actually interrupts such relationship. Given his preference for a notion of experience as presence, as opposed to any sort of mediation, and insofar as literature itself is a symbolic form, Snyder's early poems are inescapably antiliterary—metonymic and elliptical in style, impatient with language, especially in its literary seductiveness, and always aware of a reality beyond verbal reach. But even more radically, they would seem if only by implication, to be structures impatient with themselves, denying their own validity, and if this is the case, why write (or read) at all? (pp. 166-70)

[For] Snyder, language cannot be a substitute for reality and [thus these early] poems do not participate in the modernist pursuit of the thing itself. They are precisely about the dangers (here quite literal) of mistaking language for experience, of assuming that the poem can be the thing itself. Instead they seem to accept their referentiality, their representational nature, and that acceptance constitutes their value, a value which can be defined as their refusal to be valued in and for themselves. Indeed, as poems which forego any literary gleam and glitter and thus try to avoid calling attention to themselves, they preserve the inviolability of experience which originates in the "utterly incommunicable," suggesting, nevertheless, that such experience is available non-verbally.

At their own expense, then, these poems promote the value of the external world and of immediate experience. They do so, that is, by subordinating themselves to the world and by insisting on their own inadequacies, as well as those of language, to do anything more than represent. Paradoxically, however, their failure is also their success. For just to the extent that they can achieve transparency, without calling attention to themselves, and thus make vivid and real what they claim to be able merely to reproduce, they tend to become what they mean, to constitute experience rather than simply refer to it. The art of these poems, in fact, often lies in the way they convince us that certain kinds or uses of language are more "concrete," and therefore less abstract or conceptual, than others. (pp. 171-72)

In one of the first critical articles on Snyder's work, Thomas Parkinson suggested that there is one abstraction, after all, that a poet cannot help but accept, and that is language. Yet Snyder persists in his efforts to counter its abstract force. If he works hard in most of the poems of Riprap to convince us that his uses of language actually represents a reversal of the symbolizing process, there is at least one poem in the book, the programmatic and uncharacteristic title-poem, in which he adopts the alternative strategy of invoking the familiar modernist notion of words as things and of poems as objects constructed from those things. Here, in a verse-layout that is reminiscent of Williams's later style, we are not only provided with instruction in how to read the poems but are given a rough definition of poetry that is relevant to the general issue of its value, an issue that, given Snyder's attitudes, continually raises itself:

              Lay down these words
              Before your mind like rocks.
                           placed solid, by hands
              In choice of place, set
              Before the body of the mind
                               in space and time:
              Solidity of bark, leaf, or wall
                                 riprap of things:
              Cobble of milky way,
                                 straying planets,
              These poems, people
                                 lost ponies with
              Dragging saddles—
                        and rocky sure-foot trails.
              The worlds like an endless
              Game of Go.
                                 ants and pebbles
              In the thin loam, each rock a word
                              a creek-washed stone
              Granite: ingrained
                   with torment of fire and weight
              Crystal and sediment linked hot
                           all change, in thoughts,
                 As well as things….

Although the essentially narrative and mimetic qualities of the poems in Riprap as a whole make it difficult to regard them as modernist objects, this is precisely the status that Snyder's compositional methods and metaphors here would impose upon them, and we seem to be asked to think of them in just this way…. To be sure, the poem proposes a series of metaphors in which words are rocks, poems are trails or paths, and reading is walking or riding, all in accord with the definition of riprap that Snyder provides on the book's title-page: "a cobble of stone laid on steep slick rock to make a trail for horses in the mountains." Riprap, then, is an implicit analogy for poetry and becomes an overt one in this later definition from Myths & Texts: "Poetry a riprap on the slick rock of metaphysics." Both definitions suggest, however, that if the composition of poetry is a kind of physical handiwork, its ultimate purpose is less to produce beautiful objects that are admirable in themselves than it is to produce useful or functional ones, the function in this case being the provision of a path over difficult mental terrain. Snyder is still insisting that the "cobble" constituted by his uses of language will somehow be different in kind from the "steep slick rock" of metaphysics that lies beneath it, that his poetic (or anti-poetic) disposition of words can somehow avoid the abstraction of language or thinking that is more obviously conceptual in character. (pp. 174-76)

[These metaphors] imply, clearly enough, that poetry is a craft and that the poem is an object in the world, but it is not the primarily autotelic object, the aesthetic or meditational locus, of traditional modernism. Rather than such an isolated enclosure or point of rest, it is an opening to the world, a path leading outside itself, a linguistic form that is analogous in structure to the physical world and that exists alongside it but without being closed off from it. (p. 176)

From the perspective of his subsequent books it is clear that Snyder has carried over many of the features of his early poetics into his later work. Yet it also seems as if there has been a relaxation of the severity of his limited approach to the poem and to poetic value, particularly in terms of his willingness to open his work to what he calls "the two sources of human knowledge—symbols and sense-impressions." His next book after Riprap is Myths & Texts (1960), a fabric of personal experience, Buddhist mythology and American Indian lore, and it is here, apparently, that this accommodation is made. For even a cursory consideration of its poetry reveals enormous differences between the two books and suggests that Myths & Texts, as its very title implies, is a deliberate attempt to combine the two sources of human knowledge, to work with "myths and symbols and ideas … old traditions and insights,"—in fact, all the abstract symbolic media that Riprap largely rejects as epistemologically obstructive and tries to bury under its concrete surface texture. Yet when we come to the end of the book and discover its dates of composition—"Crater Mt. L. O. 1952—Marin—an 1956"—discover, that is, that it must have been composed more or less simultaneously with Riprap, it becomes difficult to maintain any argument that there has been a development or change in Snyder's outlook, that he has moved in any simple way from a denial to an acceptance of the symbolizing process and its products as valid sources of human knowledge. What is suggested, on the other hand, is the extent to which Riprap constitutes a calculated response to the modernist imperative, a deliberately initiatory gesture whose purpose is to clear a space for itself and whatever might follow. As such, it could not be anything but a first book, a radical but necessary answer to the paradoxical demand for originality as the only valid tradition that proceeds not only by denying the past but by submitting literature (and itself, in effect) to a critical interrogation of its very claims to ontological validity. (pp. 176-77)

Robert Kern, "Clearing the Ground: Gary Snyder and the Modernist Imperative," in Criticism (reprinted by permission of the Wayne State University Press; copyright 1977 by Wayne State University Press), Vol. XIX, No. 2 (Spring, 1977), pp. 158-77.