Gary Snyder, ‘Poet Laureate of Our Continent,’ Lives in the Present

Sean Elder in Newsweek:

ScreenHunter_1237 Jul. 03 16.59An odd blend of old and new San Francisco turned out to see Gary Snyder at the Nourse Theater one evening in May. Former counterculture standard-bearers such as Michael McClure and Peter Coyote mixed with young tattooed hipsters, curious techies and California Governor Jerry Brown. When I pulled out my reporter’s notebook, the young Indian man sitting next to me said, “Are we supposed to take notes?”

Wouldn’t hurt. Snyder, who turned 85 the week before, is a Pulitzer Prize–winning poet (for the 1975 collection Turtle Island), award-winning essayist, early conservationist, community activist, pioneering bio-regionalist, amateur geologist, avid mountaineer, conscientious omnivore (before the term existed), multi-linguist, Asian art and history expert, Native American story archivist and perhaps the person most responsible for awakening a generation of beatniks and hippies to Buddhism. (A former Zen monk, Snyder translated the ancient Chinese Buddhist poet Han Shan—Cold Mountain Poems—and was the unwitting model for the hero of Jack Kerouac’s 1958 novel, The Dharma Bums.) And he shows little sign of slowing. Though he’ll later tell the assembled that his new collection, This Present Moment, is “the last book of poems I’ll publish,” he has a new book with artist Tom Killion (California’s Wild Edge: The Coast in Prints, Poetry and History) and is gearing up to finish another based on the history of the environment in China—the kind of thing he makes sound like a little side project, the way you might talk about building a treehouse for the kids.

More here.