No Nature Essay - Critical Essays

Gary Snyder

No Nature

NO NATURE is a rich collection of Gary Snyder’s poetry, offering his personal favorites from such well-known texts as RIPRAP (1959), THE BACK COUNTRY (1968), and TURTLE ISLAND (published in 1974 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for 1975). Snyder also includes previously unpublished material in the title sequence that concludes the book. There is an anecdotal freshness and simplicity in Snyder’s poetry, yet he always writes about some hard-won spiritual insight. In this respect, his poetry is remarkably like Japanese haiku: the lines are taut and filled with graphic imagery of the natural world. For Snyder, poetry would be impossible without the recurrent imagery of pine trees, creeks, clouds, mountains, coyotes, bears, and the bodies of his children and spouses.

Snyder’s reverence for nature often expresses itself as an anguished concern for the ecological decline of the planet. His life and career offer obvious explanations for this ability to meditate deeply on the environment—and to profit from the ancient wisdom of India and Japan, as well as Native American mythology. Snyder studied literature and anthropology at Reed College and Oriental languages at Berkeley. He has worked as a logger, seaman, and forester, and he studied Zen Buddhism for many years at a monastery in Kyoto, Japan, interrupting that study briefly for a pilgrimage to the sacred shrines of India. Yet he is never pretentious or pedantic, always speaking in a voice that is humble and true. Snyder is one of the few writers who can write with equal conviction about spiritual enlightenment or the joys of cutting fence posts and repairing Jeeps. Reading NO NATURE is like spending a day in the mountains, where everything becomes sharper, including self-awareness.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. LXXXIX, September 15, 1992, p. 17.

The Christian Science Monitor. January 7, 1993, p. 14.

Detroit News and Free Press. November 29, 1992, p. P7.

Library Journal. CXVII, September 15, 1992, p. 68.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. December 27, 1992, p. 1.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVII, December 27, 1992, p. 2.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIX, August 10, 1992, p. 58.

San Francisco Chronicle. October 4, 1992, p. REV3.