Gary Snyder’s New Beginner Enlightenment

Patrick James Dunagan

What I think is a useful definition is to use the word “nature” to mean all of the phenomenal universe. As it is used in science; then cities are natural, machinery is natural, everything that exists within the potentiality of the laws of nature is natural…then the question is what is that is “wild?” Wild is the territory outside of human agency.
                                                    - Gary Snyder, “lunch poems” reading UC Berkeley Mar 5, 2009

That’s what movie-making is all about. It’s about steering the flow of the viewer’s imagination, to awaken the imagination, to sensitize them to sound, to sensitize them to life in general.
                                                    - Werner Herzog, On the Birth of Art, Archaeology Mar/Apr 2011

It’s an absolute pleasure that The Etiquette of Freedom hits high marks on all counts and does so without any sort of visual trickery or needless distraction. There’s no pandering. While Snyder does read from his work there are thankfully no attempts at a dizzying array of overburdened collage of images thrown at the viewer. Instead there’s a down home feeling of humorous good will and cheer spread throughout the film alongside a serious consideration of where poetry and ecology might meet and coincide in determining how one lives in a place amongst others, interacting in good faith towards the common good.

The film (a dvd of which is included with the book) is a series of edited conversational exchanges between poet-friends Jim Harrison and Gary Snyder. Whatever setting they may be in, whether strolling in the rolling California coastal hills of the Hearst ranch, sitting relaxed in front of fireplace, or gathered round the table in after dinner reflection with a group of friends, the discussion of the hazards and necessity of responsibility-minded relationships of care is constant. The book itself is a rock solid transcription of the film (unfortunately, you don’t quite get the joy of Harrison’s grunts, but his delicious “yeahs” are included) along with transcriptions of numerous extra discussions between Harrison & Snyder that didn’t make the final cut.

Healey also recruits fellow poets Joanne Kyger and Michael McClure to offer appropriate contextual and poet-depth insight into Snyder personal history. McClure comments on the infamous sixth gallery reading of Beat Generation acclaim as only he’s able and Kyger gives the more personal anecdote in her humanely calm manner, such as, “Jack Spicer used to call him the Boy Scout. ‘You’re off to Marin County with the Boy Scout, huh?’ ” And publisher Jack Shoemaker situates Snyder’s place in his own reading of the North American literary tradition: “Snyder so clearly came from Emerson, Thoreau, Rexroth—the lineage was very clear.” You need have no prior knowledge of Snyder’s work to enjoy this film, but at the same time possessing such knowledge doesn’t make the film a bore.

The overriding message, if it may indeed be said to have one, of Snyder’s work is based upon being both responsible and aware. That is, to put it more bluntly, knowledge is worth searching out and further investigating. His collection of essays, Practice of the Wild (which serves as companion–piece to Etiquette of Freedom inspiring the title of the project) covers the themes Harrison and Snyder discuss, and is a platform in which he delves deep into the concerns which sum up his writing life as being one where the practice of writing is—of course—one integrally tied to that of living. A thoughtful, caring consideration of how we go about being who we are where (locale, place) we are; how we treat ourselves and each other (i.e., how we live), in response to the environment (be it urban or rural) around us.
1 2 3 >>



Reviews


Page 1 of 3 >>
2015
2014
2013

Beyond and Back: Writing That Risks
Robert O'Connell


Making Americans: Children’s Literature from 1930 to 1960
Charlie Kennedy


Sunday Best: People on Sunday by Geoffrey G. O'Brien
John Gibbs


I've Always Wanted to Use Malarky in a Review: Trances of the Blast by Mary Ruefle
Cassie Duggan


The Streets of Buffalo, à la Carte: Thea Swanson’s The Curious Solitude of Anise
Charles Haddox


A Witty and Delightfully Engaging Collection: Ten Years in the Tub by Nick Hornby
Charlie Kennedy


Spanish Author's Debut in English: End of Love by Marcos Giralt Torrente
Erin Berman


A Riveting Read: Emmaus by Alessandro Baricco
Erin Berman


We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger's Daughter by Rachael Hanel
J. Haley Campbell


This Feeling of Empathy: Participants by Andrew Keating
Joe Ransom


Portrait of a Poet: Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine
John Gibbs


Rediscovering Levine: A Reissue of Sweet Will
John Gibbs


Meandering Toward Meaning in Michelle Herman's Stories We Tell Ourselves
Morgan Vogel Chinnock


Skin I'm In: Ariana Nadia Nash's Instructions for Preparing Your Skin
Cassie Duggan


SplitLevel Texts: A Cruel Nirvana and The Treatment of Monuments
Patrick James Dunagan


A Race to Understand a Troubled Place: Michael Lavigne's The Wanting
Alex Rieser


Lenore Zion's Wicked Smart Novel Stupid Children
J. Haley Campbell


Into the Tangled Dark: Jay Ponteri's Wedlocked
Morgan Vogel Chinnock


Stalking Wolf Haas's The Bone Man
Charlie Kennedy


A Painter's Poet: Karen Rigby's Chinoiserie
John Gibbs


Bridging the Gaps: Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra
Erin Berman


Manu Joseph's The Illicit Happiness of Other People, A Novel
Charlie Kennedy


Courttia Newland Explores London’s Social Rifts in The Gospel According to Cane
Andrew Blackman


A Sharp Debut: Jamie Sharpe's Animal Husbandry Today
John Gibbs


Susan Wheeler's Meme: A Contagious Book of Poems
Cassie Duggan


Joshua Cohen's Verbal Gymnastics: Four New Messages
Juli C. Lasselle


2012

The Grittiness and Challenge of Zadie Smith's NW
Charlie Kennedy


Minnesotan Dragons in Mindy Mejia’s The Dragon Keeper
Inge Lamboo


Pianos and Poems: Oni Buchanan's Must a Violence
John Gibbs


Verbal Tumbleweeds: Davy Rothbart's My Heart is an Idiot
Catherine Wargo Roberts


As Labyrinthine as the Streets of Moscow: Caroline Clark's Saying Yes in Russian
paul kavanagh


A Bell Ringing in a Place Thought Dead: Safe as Houses
Michelle Boise


Purple Passages and Captain Poetry’s Sucker Punch
Patrick James Dunagan


On Lecturing Poetically: Ruefle's Madness, Rack, and Honey
John Gibbs


Travels in Puerto Rico
Charlie Kennedy


Breaking New Ground: Between Heaven and Here
Erin Berman


Invest in Stock: Norman Stock's Pickled Dreams Naked
John Gibbs


As if it Fell from the Sun: Celebrating Poetry from EtherDome
Chelsea DeRose


They, Too, Sing America: Buckley & Ott's Poets' Guide to America
John Gibbs


Renegade Documents:
Tlemcen or Places of Writing & Opera Omnia
Patrick James Dunagan


Something Out There: Catherine Chandler’s This Sweet Order
Jonathon Penny


Jennifer Miller's Daring The Year of the Gadfly
Eric D. Goodman


Coastal Poetry: Dear Oxygen and California Redemption Value
Patrick James Dunagan


The Cosmology of Transience: Kevin Opstedal's California Redemption Value
Alex Rieser


Collective Memory in Evelyn Posamentier's Poland at the Door
Trena Machado


We Have to Stop Being Fearful: Paul Kavanagh’s Iceberg
Charles Haddox


A Life's Work: Sheer Indefinite by Skip Fox
Patrick James Dunagan


Syntax as Music in Arisa White’s Hurrah’s Nest
Karen Biscopink


Alone Together: David Landrum's The Impossibility of Epithalamia
Robbi Nester


Nature, Terror and Renewal in Zilka Joseph’s What Dread
Michelle Regalado Deatrick


Meditating on Aline Soules' Meditation on Woman
Carol Smallwood


A Little Night Music: Kenneth Frost’s Night Flight
Christina Cook


The Joy of Carol Smallwood's Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity and Other Realms
Aline Soules


2011