Tag Archives: reading

Quote: Gary Snyder (Rucksack Revolution)

Gary Snyder with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, photo by Chris Felver (for educational use)

“I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of ’em Zen Lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures.”

Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder: “Writers in Motion” interview from Poland

Poet Gary Snyder interview from Poland “Gary Snyder – Writers in Motion – Audiowizualna biblioteka pisarzy” you’ll likely enjoy:

Rabbit Holes of History: Norsemen, Dark Ages, Great War, War in Pacific etc.

*** Study Notes from Rabbit Holes including Norsemen, Dark Ages, Great War, and War in Pacific etc ***

Over the past while, whilst dealing with this illness, I’ve gone down deep into “rabbit holes” about various segments of history.

Went deep into Norse history from early viking expeditions to Orkneys and Hebredies in search of (literally) greener pastures, to invasions of Northumbria, East Anglia, Mercia, Francia and expeditions to Russia including trading with Middle East – Also their steel forging skills – All through to the Norman invasion with William the Conquero. Then Viking voyages to North Atlantic away from Europe and to North America. Also learned about new satellite archaeology techniques used for finding settlement sites in eastern Canada. There will be remarkable discoveries in the next decade which will rewrite books.

Then went deep into “dark” ages to the founding of what is now modern western Europe – roughly from post-Roman to Charlemange. I was specifically interested in how a culture grows up around the ruins of a much greater culture. Like you’re a dirt farmer in what is now England and you look around at lovely aqueduct and empty baths while you try to figure out how to get clean water. Makes me wonder if we’re living in a “dark ages” or we’re the Romans.

Then deep into the “Great war” and the unrest and revolutions which happened in the aftermath which broke down monarchies and gave rise to nationstates… But also produced situations which led to what we now call World War II through rise of fascism, totalitarianism, communism and showed the falls of capitalism through the depression. Each of these flavors contributed in away to the events that transpired. (Also Hitler’s home movies and i’ve already absorbed everything about art theft during this era).

Then deep into the relationship between Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchhill and Josef Stalin and how they had to jockey amongst themselves to convince the others of the importance of their different priorities… Also deep into the north African campaigns through the desert – especially the desert expeditionary unit (mostly New Zealanders) who lived for months at a time in uncharted areas in difficult conditions to gather intelligence. They did receive a rum ration though.

And also I am continually unpacking my knowledge of the war in the Pacific… Most recently started with “Fall of Japan” a massive tome which chronicles – in great nuanced detail – the events in Japan from the day after Nagasaki bombing to the signing on Missouri (Aug. 6-30 1945).

As you might expect, lots of efforts to raid the palace, people convinced the emperor was a body double or coerced, dozens of ritual suicide by high-ranking officials, people going into hiding, renegade bands of soldiers holding tough, and back channel diplomacy actions trying to smooth things over for an inevitable fate. Including all the secret communication machinations used to finally get messages back-and-forth between the right people to effectuate the surrender and peace and landing etc.

Then watched film called Emperor – this began as MacArthur and his crew were landing at Atsugi after the signing and follows the story of a General Bonner Fellows who was tasked with determining whether Emperor Hirohito would be held to trial or not. Of course he had to wrangle between Tojo (who just had tried to kill himself but was “saved” in time to be tried and executed, and Kanabe (?), the previous prime minister, and all the militarists and hard core zealots who insisted on vague answers and didn’t understand that really they didn’t *really* want to try Hito but they needed an legitimate excuse not to do so.

Also Tommy Lee Jones as MacArthur wasn’t too bad actually, and they dramatized the famous meeting between the Emperor and The Supreme Commander with only one dedicated translator between them. And they re-created the famous photograph.

Then, I’m onto a book called “Supreme Commander: MacArthur’s Triumph in Japan” which doubles back over the previous bit and starts with the planning of the signature ceremony on the USS Missouri and into his landing at Atsugi and motorcade (with thousands of Japanese soldiers turning their backs in respect) and starting to issue his edicts to manage the situation and deal with a starving population.

Still working on this one.

A few notes include (from a civilian peacenik perspective):

The rivalry between Army and Navy is far more vast than I realized. We civilians think of the Armed Forces as fairly unified and not completely discrete, or/and even rival, units. Of course this is most evident in the rivalry between MacArthur and Nimitz but also amongst the rank and file – especially jr officers seeking to climb the ladder.

The Tokyo firebombings must’ve been even more miserable way to go then the Atomic bombs further south. Both suck. Also glad Eleanor Roosevelt pushed so hard to spare Kyoto from the bombs.

The Russians joining the war against Japan the day after Nagasaki and still expecting a seat at the negotiation table so to speak. Funny Russians.

The Chinese Reds filling the power vacuum left by Chinese army instantly after the bombs – even while the news was still travelling to POW camps around Asia. The commandants of the camps did not know quite what to think when Allied forces started parachuting in to demand release.

The two-men chosen by Japan to sign the surrender document: the diplomat with the wooden leg who had to get from the US Destroyer to a launch via a bosun’s chair, and then try to maintain dignity wall climbing up a ladder on the side of the Missouri while wearing a cutaway coat and a top hat.

MacArthur’s choice of guests to be on board at the signing was very specific and included the Canadian doctor (who signed on Canada’s behalf) who had done the surgery on the affirmation Japanese diplomat’s leg.

He also made sure to invite a bunch of generals who got their ass kicked in the war including the poor bastard who was left on the Philippines (Wainwright whom MacArthur greeted with a “Hey Skinny!”) when MacArther split to Australia, plus the British general who had to surrender Singapore when they were caught unaware.

As per above: Didn’t realize MacArthur had fcked up and ignored orders after Pearl Harbor. Stationed in the Philippines, he didntorder a full alert and, as a result, the Philippines was destroyed quickly by the Japanese who were well ready for the invasion.

MacArthur’s move of exiting the plane with no weapons was a powerful move. Oh also, MacArthur had Admiral Perry’s US flag expedited from the Smithsonian to have on display on the Missouri. Nice nuanced touch which was noted by the Japanese who, after the ceremony, discussed amongst themselves they would have treated their vanquished enemy so kindly and respectfully. They concurred that they would not have and that convinced them to cooperate with the victorious allies.

I’m interested to continue on with this work and to see how MacArthurs “Republican” views were instrumental in outline things like brewing and hemp production in Japan.

“Art on High: Beat Poets on the Fire Lookouts” in Seattle Met

 (Yet another yet very welcome) article about Beat Poets working as Fire Lookouts in North Cascades.


Desolation Lookout Jack Kerouac’s post still stands. IMAGE: COURTESY NPS

How to pick a Fire Lookout Cabin to visit? Are you capable?
Perhaps these remarks from Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac will inspire (or retire) your ideas.

Art on High: Beat Poets on the Fire Lookouts

What was Jack Kerouac doing on top of a North Cascade peak?
By Allison Williams 8/1/2013 in the August 2013 issue of Seattle Met

Excerpt, Regarding the remarkable Mr. Snyder:

Gary Snyder was the first poet to get a job as a fire lookout, manning the now-gone station atop Crater Mountain in 1952 while writing and studying Zen; his old friend and fellow poet Philip Whalen took a nearby post the next year. Then, on the night of a now-famous 1955 poetry reading in San Francisco, Snyder was introduced to the young Jack Kerouac. (Allen Ginsberg, drunk on wine to calm his nerves, did the introducing before going onstage to perform a new poem called “Howl.”) Snyder convinced Kerouac to try a stint as a fire lookout, since he himself—a burgeoning anarchist, albeit a pacifist—had been banned due to McCarthy-era blacklisting.

Excerpt: 

Kerouac later wrote about the summer in Desolation Angels and The Dharma Bums, giving his pal Snyder the pseudonym Japhy Ryder. Snyder himself penned poems about the experience throughout his life; “Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout” concludes:

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

& (by the end)

“I wanta go where there’s lamps and telephones and rumpled couches with women on them.”

 

Mountain Fire Lookouts / in the hills and The Guardian

Mountain Fire Lookouts in the next topic.

Fans of Beat Lit heroes are no doubt aware that Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac and Phillip Whalen (among others), spent time thinking, writing, meditating, spacing out in remote forest fire lookout cabins.

Usually the job would include a few weeks of RipRap trail making before being dropped off with a burro worth of supplies to spend a few months being stunned by beauty, accepting solitude, riding out wild storms and growing beards.

These jobs still exists – even with all the technology, nothing is better than a practiced eye up in the sky.

There are several articles about this job and these places which seem to appear from time to time.

Anyhow, so who’s sending in a job application?

This one from The Guardian:

‘Freaks on the peaks’: the lonely lives of the last remaining forest fire lookouts

Rory Carroll at Stonewall fire lookout, Montana
@rorycarroll72
Tue 30 Aug 2016 11.00 BST

There were 10,000 lookouts, scanning the wilderness for signs of smoke. Now just a few hundred remain, and they pass the time hiking, writing and knitting

Liberated Literature on the backporch

So many lovely, top-end literature friends send out to the world. I hope their lives are most wonderful and folks drop a note from time to time.

Gary Snyder: Interview with Junior Burke / Naropa Institute

interesting interview about politics, nature, culture and his contemporaries, by noted poet and personal hero, Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder: Interview with Junior Burke

Re: Self-sufficiency

Can you change the oil in your car yourself? Do you know how to change the oil filter? Do you have a tool kit available? Do you have a tool kit that has several types of pliers, Phillips screwdrivers and slotted screwdrivers? And there is a lot else. To be a self-sufficient human being at this point in history means you need to know a few things, and you can’t always — especially if you are not rich — rely on calling up somebody to come and fix it for you and charge you a lot of money. I am not talking about knowing how to grow your own food or how to cast lead to make your own bullets or something like that, although that would be relevant at times; but just what everybody has to know. My older son, Kai, who lives up in Portland, is forty-three now… He grew up on the farm in the country, or whatever we call it, and he said to me just a couple years ago: “You know, almost none of my friends my age understand what I am talking about when I say I have got to do this with my engine, or I am going to tune up my weed-whacker, or I have got to do some more plumbing, or I have got to get a proper snake for the drain. They never learned anything about fixing thing, or about tools.” Everybody lives in a house, okay? So everybody should be able to do something with their house.

## Continue reading Gary Snyder: Interview with Junior Burke / Naropa Institute

John Cairney as Robert Burns spieling Tam o’ Shanter

(via john cairney | johncairney.com – Robert Burns)

 

Fire Watchers and their Towers in the North Cascades / Skagit Valley Journal

More about Fire lookout tower in Cascadia… the low down the mechanics of running these operations and the rugged folks who made it happen. Plus name checks for the town of Sedro-Wooley which i’ve spent time in years ago.

Fire Watchers and their Towers in the North Cascades

Story posted on Aug. 12, 2002, last updated June 15, 2010

Regarding Jack, Gary and Phillip:

The most famous firewatcher was Jack Kerouac, who spent part of the summer of 1956 in the tower at Desolation Peak near Mount Hozomeen and the U.S.-Canada border. Like some other watchers of the day, he anticipated his time there as a period of reflection and meditation and cleansing in the solitude. His friend, poet Gary Snyder, signed on as a fire lookout earlier — at Crater in 1952 and Sourdough in 1953, but was blacklisted by the Feds and did not return for 1954, the “high summer of the great fear,” as historian David Caute described it. Snyder’s Reed College friend and fellow poet Philip Whalen manned Sauk Mountain in 1953, then Sourdough in 1954 and 1955. Snyder was the one who alerted Kerouac to the joys and solitude of the mountains. All those sites north of the Skagit are part of the Mount Baker National Forest that was originally patrolled by the legendary ranger Tommy Thompson.

Whatever Kerouac thought he was seeking, he found what many others did: monotony and boredom after the initial excitement. We learn from the Ann Charters biography, Kerouac, a Biography, that Jack came up from California in mid-June 1956, attended a fire-watching school for a week and then spent eight weeks on the mountain after being packed in on muleback. On the climb upwards he saw the charred snags that stood witness to the flash fire of 1919 that led to name of Desolation, part of the Starvation Ridge area. Nary a fire threatened his assigned area that summer so he spent much of his time on the routine chores of chopping wood, collecting bucketsful of snow for washing and cooking, communicating on the two-way radio, pacing about on the narrow trails, chewing Beech Nut gum and smoking his roll-yer-owns.

He slept on a wooden bunk with a rope mattress in the sleeping bag Snyder helped him pick out in Oakland. To amuse himself he baked rye muffins, played a baseball game with a pack of cards that he’d invented when he was a boy in Lowell, and picked a few sprigs of alpine fire and a wild flower every day to put in a coffee cup on his desk. Jack wrote at the desk facing away from looming Mount Hozomeen on his north, the dark, naked rock of Hozomeen coming to symbolize for him ‘the Void,’ with its clouds and thunderstorms, the two sharp peaks of Hozomeen looming in his window as he lay in bed, ‘the Northern Lights behind it reflecting all the ice of the North Pole from the other side of the world.’ During the long afternoons he sat in his canvas chair facing ‘Void Hozomeen,’ listening to the silence of his cabin and making up haikus. His experience that summer is the kernel of his later book, Desolation Angels, the companions he imagined dancing out of the fog along the ridge. The North Cascades Institute in Sedro-Woolley offers a course based on the experience of Jack Kerouac and his writing.

Gary Snyder: 50th Anniversary of Riprap at UC Berekley

UC Berkeley’s blurb:

Fifty years ago this Fall a small press in Kyoto, Japan published an English language book of poems, Riprap, by an unknown, first-time poet and UC Berkeley graduate student, Gary Snyder. It was, along with Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, one of the books that launched the Beat Generation. It was also the most important book of American nature writing since John Muir’s The Mountains of California in 1890, a pioneering work in the brief history of the American Buddhist sensibility, and a set of poems that combined freedom and elegance in a way that opened up new pathways in modern poetry. Join us in celebrating this landmark in American literature and in the cultural life of California.