Beth and I saw Gary Snyder speak at Berkeley in Doe Library a few nights ago. Snyder is among my favorite poets; hearing him speak and read some of his works fulfilled an old dream. He lectured mainly on his acts of translation, interwoven with anecdotes from his past.
This interview from the Paris Review sums up many of the reasons I like the man. A few gems follow (some line breaks added to split up the text):
I guess one’s work as a writer really holds one to the literally physical act of writing and visualizing and imagining and researching and following out the threads of one’s project. However, if one is a nonfiction prose writer or a poet, one is apt to be much more closely engaged with daily life as part of one’s real work, and one’s real work actually becomes life.
And life comes down to daily life. This is also a very powerful Buddhist point: that what we learn and even hopefully become enlightened by is a thorough acceptance of exactly who we are and exactly what it is we must do, with no evasion, no hiding from any of it, physically or psychologically. And so finding the ceremonial, the almost sacramental quality of the moves of daily life is taught in Buddhism. That’s what the Japanese tea ceremony is all about. The Japanese tea ceremony is a model of sacramental tea drinking. Tea drinking is taken as a metaphor for the kitchen and for the dining room. You learn how to drink tea, and if you learn how to drink tea well, you know how to take care of the kitchen and dining room every day. If you learn how to take care of the kitchen and the dining room, you’ve learned about the household. If you know about the household, you know about the watershed. Ecology means house, oikos, you know, from the Greek. Oikos also gives us economics. Oikos nomos means “managing the household.” So that’s one way of looking at it. I understand that there are other lines and other directions that poets take and I honor them. I certainly don’t believe there’s only one kind of poetry.
And then the fundamental ethical precept: whatever you do, try not to cause too much harm.