Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems, Gary Snyder. (Counterpoint Press) $12.95
Counterpoint’s re-print of Snyder’s first book of poems, Riprap, published forty-five years ago by Origin Press, is accompanied by his early translations of Chinese poet’s Han-Shan’s Cold Mountain Poems, from the sixth issue of the Evergreen Review. Snyder’s early clarity of vision, in response to ” the poetry of twentieth-century coolness, its hard edges and resilient elitism,” has only come to greater fruition over the course of his career. These poems mark the beginning of Snyder’s journey, and they reflect what’s best about his poems. They’re moral without didacticism or religiosity, more Hass than hippie, spare but not spacey.
an excerpt from Han Shan’s Cold Mountain Poems:
In a tangle of cliffs I chose a place—
Bird-paths, but no trails for men.
What’s beyond the yard?
White clouds clinging to vague rocks.
Now I’ve lived here—how many years—
Again and again, spring and winter pass.
Go tell families with silverware and cars
“What’s the use of all that noise and money?”
The Selected Letters of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, ed. Bill Morgan. (Counterpoint Press) $16.95
An aesthetic chronicle of two related but distinct poets, their letters are mostly free of artifice and seem to reflect their authors’ true personalities. Correspondences are often too full of allusion to be meaningful to the casual reader, but these buck that trend. Snyder writes generous epistles that contain a wilder lucidity than his poems, his love for Ginsberg, Nanao Sakaki, and other contemporaries is made obvious by their discussion of the everyday, their constant planning for reunions. His introduction to a letter sent from San Francisco to New York in spring of 1969 reflects the letters’ character well:
I had a few glasses of wine last night and called you, but talked to Peter pleasantly instead, you were in New York he said. He sounds on the phone like “Wolfman Jack” the celebrated Los Angeles disk jockey (whom we picked up on the Jap transistor in the depths of Baja California desert wilderness).
An interesting companion to Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems, The Selected Letters is a portrait of Snyder from another angle. A test, perhaps, of the veracity of his character, this view proves Snyder as meditative, elegant, and wise as his poems suggest.