From Publishers Weekly
In his first gathering of new poetry since the 1996 book-length poem Mountains and Rivers Without End
, Snyder seeks a kind of fraught peace, which he cannot sustain; the book begins and ends in upheaval. A mostly prose sequence recalls the recent history of Mount Saint Helens, the Washington State volcano whose eruption in 1980 has been recently (and for now, more softly) reprised. Snyder's speaker remembers climbing it decades ago and sees how flora and fauna are already returning there now: "Who wouldn't take the chance to climb a snowpeak and get the long view?" Landscape, geology, botany and ecology; the poet's Buddhist outlook and its consequences for ethics, and the small pleasures of daily existence, inform the understated, short poems making up most of the volume. Snyder excels in adapting Japanese forms, such as haibun, to American usage. Many of his short poems recall the people—friends, lovers, a daughter—for whom Snyder cares or has cared, an attractive surprise in a poet known more for his rapport with nonhuman nature. Last come five short poems prompted by world events, including the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in spring 2001 and the terrorist attacks later that year: Snyder reminds us that humans are animals too, "beings, living or not," "inside or outside of time."
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Snyder's first all-new collection since Axe Handles
(1983) takes its title from the last line of a little poem about first seeing Carole, now his wife. It reveals one appetite flaring, ever so subtly, in the mundane precincts of another: he's dishing out a meal, she's receiving it, and he glimpses "her lithe leg," obviously "trained by . . . danger on peaks." This sort of thing happens all the time, of course, but how often is it this well captured? In these poems of his sixties and early seventies, Snyder often works such magic, in poems as compact as those of the Japanese masters he has long studied and in prose-and-verse pieces as crystalline as those in the famous travel books of Basho. From the opening prose-and-verse section on several climbs of Mount St. Helens, through short poems of observation and longer ones on daily life, to more prose-and-verse pieces on journeys near and far, Snyder seems more accepting than ever before. His 1960s eco-Marxist scolding is gone, and he's the wiser for it. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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