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No Nature
No Nature


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Gary Snyder was born in San Francisco in 1930 and moved shortly after to the Pacific Northwest. Growing up in Washington State, he worked on his parents' farm and seasonally in the woods. He graduated in 1951 from Reed College with a degree in literature and anthropology. After a brief stay at Indiana University he moved back to the Bay Area, where he studied Oriental languages at UC Berkeley and became actively involved int the new flowering of West Coast poetry.

In the summer of 1955 Snyder turned from academia and signed on with the Yosemite National Park as a trail crew laborer, working the upper reaches of the Piute Creek drainage. "I began to meditate nights, after work," he writes of that time, "and I found myself writing some poems that surprised me." That fall he participated in the Six Gallery reading, the launching event of the Beat Movement.

In 1956 Snyder left the States for Kyoto, Japan, initiating what was to become a ten-year residence abroad. While in Japan, Snyder pursued an intensive Zen Buddhist practice, studying in monasteries and translating Zen Buddhist texts. He became involved with a wide circle of Japanese intellectuals and engaged Buddhists. During this period Snyder made several trips abroad. He worked in the engine room of a tanker traveling along the Pacific Rim; with Allen Ginsberg and several others he made a pilgrimage through India, visiting sacred sites.

Snyder returned to permanent residence in North America in 1969. Together with his family, he built a house in the Sierra Nevada foothills, where their lives combine nineteenth- and twenty-first century technologies. He continues to travel widely, reading, lecturing, and working with various groups of environmentalists and indigenous peoples.

Snyder joined the faculty of UC Davis in 1985. He is the author of fourteen volumes of poetry and prose, including Practice of the Wild and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Turtle Island. He has been a Guggenheim fellow and is member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. No Nature was nominated for the National Book Award in 1992.

from the PREFACE

What's intimate? The feet and hands, ones confection of thoughts, knowledges, and memories; the kitchen and the bedding. And there is one's language. How wonderful to be born to become a Native Speaker, to be truly native of something. I've been at home with the same language--eased by it, amused by it, surfing on it, no matter where I lived, through the years.

These poems belong to the west coast tongue, Anglo-franco American Indo-European, and to the emergent Pacific culture. Some of them owe much to my readings of Chinese and Japanese short poems, some are instructed by ethnopoetics, and most are in the debt of the mid-twentieth-century masters. I also make my bows to Native American song, story, and subsistence; to the persistence of the old growth forests of the far west; to the snowy peaks of the Pacific crest, and to some great teachers.

No Nature. Human societies each have their own nuty fads, mass delusions, and enabling mythologies. Daily life still gets done. Wild nature is probably equally goofy, with a stunning variety of creatures somehow getting by in all these landscapes. Nature also means the physical universe, including the urban, industrial, and toxic. But we do not easily know nature, or even know ourselves. Whatever it actually is, it will not fulfil our conceptions or assumptions. It will dodge our expectations and theoretical models. There is no single or set "nature" either as " the natural world" or "the nature of things." The greatest respect we can pay to nature is not to trap it, but to acknowledge that it eludes us and that our own nature is also fluid, open, and conditional.

Hakuin Zenji puts it "self-nature that is no nature/ . . . far beyond mere doctrine." An open space to move in, with the whole body, the whole mind. My gesture has been with language.

--Gary Snyder
March 6, 1992