Beat poet Gary Snyder gives talk at the University Center of the Arts

Caitlyn Berman

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Photos by Stephanie Mason

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On Wednesday, widely acclaimed beat generation poet and Pulitzer Prize winner Gary Snyder shared his poetry, thoughts and wisdom with a room packed full of nearly 500 guests.

The talk was originally scheduled to take place in the University Center of the Arts’s Organ Recital Hall, but it was moved to the UCA’s much bigger Griffin Concert Hall, after the entire venue was filled with 300 people with 170 still waiting outside.

Photo courtesy of Caitlyn Berman
Photo courtesy of Caitlyn Berman

Snyder gave the audience sneak peaks of his up-and-coming volume of short poems to be titled “This Present Moment.” The poems combine aesthetics of nature and time, as well as aspects of Buddhism and spirituality. The title for this collection came from a small poem he wrote ten years ago that reads, “This present moment which lives on to become long ago.”

Slipping his glasses on and off of his nose, Snyder recollected his time spent in Fort Collins, particularly on the first ever Earth Day in 1970. Snyder himself was greatly influential in the erection of Earth Day as a tradition, being a learned and active proponent of Deep Ecology.

“We are not separate from nature,” he said, later commenting on his admiration for the “perfect statement of emptiness.” His inspiration for early works and late largely stems from Buddhism, a religion he spent years learning in Japan. This tradition is one emphasizing the importance of being in the present moment. Snyder read from one of his newer poems, “I have to slow down my mind,” further recognizing the intentionality of being immediate in space and time.

Snyder included older poems about his late wife, Carole Lynn Koda, including “Gnarly” and “Off the Trail.” He also read poems dedicated to his college sweetheart, Robin, stating, “All that I wanted then is forgotten now,” recognizing the impermanence of things as understood in Buddhism.

Snyder’s ties to Buddhism stretch back to his time spent enrolled at the University of California in Berkeley, where his cottage neighbored the Young Buddhist Association. It was around this time he attended the famous Six Gallery reading in San Francisco, with beat generation writers Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac in 1955. Snyder himself was the inspiration for Jack Kerouac’s main character, Japhy, in his novel “The Dharma Bums.”

After his involvement with the Beat poets, Snyder moved on to his focus in Deep Ecology, incorporating his love for the land into his poem, “Starting the Spring Garden and Thinking of Thomas Jefferson.” In this poem, he questions what it is humans are always thirsting for and draws attention back to the importance of treatment of and respect for the land.

Snyder closed his reading with a smile and the statement, “Start enjoying the day. That is some of the best advice you will ever get,” accompanied by the roar of a standing ovation.

Collegian A&E Writer Caitlyn Berman can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @CaitlynBerman.

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