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Gary Snyder and the Pacific Rim

Creating Countercultural Community

Timothy Gray

Publication Year: 2006

In Gary Snyder and the Pacific Rim, Timothy Gray draws upon previously unpublished journals and letters as well as his own close readings of Gary Snyder's well-crafted poetry and prose to track the early career of a maverick intellectual whose writings powered the San Francisco Renaissance of the 1950s and 1960s. Exploring various aspects of cultural geography, Gray asserts that this west coast literary community seized upon the idea of a Pacific Rim regional structure in part to recognize their Orientalist desires and in part to consolidate their opposition to America's cold war ideology, which tended to divide East from West. The geographical consciousness of Snyder's writing was particularly influential, Gray argues, because it gave San Francisco's Beat and hippie cultures a set of physical coordinates by which they could chart their utopian visions of peace and love. Gray's introduction tracks the increased use of “Pacific Rim discourse” by politicians and business leaders following World War II. Ensuing chapters analyze Snyder's countercultural invocation of this regional idea, concentrating on the poet's migratory or “creaturely” sensibility, his gift for literary translation, his physical embodiment of trans-Pacific ideals, his role as tribal spokesperson for Haight-Ashbury hippies, and his burgeoning interest in environmental issues. Throughout, Gray's citations of such writers as Allen Ginsberg, Philip Whalen, and Joanne Kyger shed light on Snyder's communal role, providing an amazingly intimate portrait of the west coast counterculture. An interdisciplinary project that utilizes models of ecology, sociology, and comparative religion to supplement traditional methods of literary biography, Gary Snyder and the Pacific Rim offers a unique perspective on Snyder's life and work. This book will fascinate literary and Asian studies scholars as well as the general reader interested in the Beat movement and multicultural influences on poetry.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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p. vii

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Preface: The Geographic Impulse

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pp. ix-xiii

For several years now, I have been interested in the crosscultural energies that circulate in avant-garde literary communities. I have therefore found myself turning time and again to The New American Poetry 1945–1960, a landmark collection of early postmodern verse edited by Donald Allen and published by Grove Press in 1960. As Allen hints in the preface to this anthology...

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pp. xv-xviii

I began this book on the shores of the Pacific Rim nearly ten years ago. Mapping out a project of this scope has been a tremendous challenge, to put it mildly. Fortunately, I have benefited from the support of many along the way. I must first thank Herb Levine, Tony Ugolnik, and Joe Voelker, who introduced me to the complexities of American poetry during my undergraduate years...


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pp. xix-xx

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The Pacific Rim and the San Francisco Renaissance: Two Communities "Taking Place" in Midcentury America

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pp. 1-43

I remember thinking that it was an unusual situation for a financially strapped graduate student, but in September 1997 I was encamped on the beaches of Bali, relaxing, reading, and drinking up sunshine and bottles of Bintang beer in equal measure. The free time I owed to a university fellowship that relieved me of my teaching duties for that academic year. The opportunity to travel to Indonesia I owed to my wife’s parents, who generously volunteered to defray...

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1. Migrating: Exploring the Creaturely Byways of the Pacific Northwest

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pp. 45-98

In Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, anthropologist James Clifford discusses a variety of postmodern predicaments resulting from increased contact among global or “traveling” cultures. Travel, as Clifford attempts to define it throughout his book’s collage of essays and personal notes, encompasses “an increasingly complex range of experiences: practices of crossing and interaction that [have] troubled the localism of many...

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2. Translating: The Poetics of Linking East and West

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pp. 99-154

In the spring of 1956, after reaching the end of Myths & Texts, Snyder handed the completed manuscript to Robert Creeley, whom he entrusted with the task of seeking a publisher. He could not have predicted that Myths & Texts would remain in the trunk of Creeley’s car for months on end, despite the best efforts of Phil Whalen to get Creeley to finish and distribute the...

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3. Embodying: Human Geography and the Way to the Back Country

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pp. 155-213

Some readers might find it surprising that Snyder picked up and left for Japan just as he was becoming a fixture on the San Francisco scene. But his journey to Asia had been planned for some time, and for him it was the natural course of action after taking graduate courses at UC–Berkeley and making contact with various Pacific Rim mythologies...

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4. Communing: Tribal Passions in the Late 1960s

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pp. 215-267

Looking back on the first half of Snyder’s career, it is possible to view “Back,” the final section of The Back Country, as the initial stage of a cultural return that continued to unfold in the late 1960s. After six consecutive years in Asia, Snyder spent nine months in America from 1964 to 1965. During this time, he taught at UC–Berkeley, gave public readings and interviews, climbed mountains, and reconnected...

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Digging In: The Reinhabitation of Turtle Island

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pp. 269-294

Throughout this study in cultural geography, I have sought to highlight the importance of mobility and diffusion in Snyder’s life and work. As a boy, Snyder was struck by the trans-Pacific exchange epitomized by cargo ships in Puget Sound and sumi paintings in the Seattle Art Museum. As a student at Reed College, he learned about the routes of various Pacific Rim mythologies...


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pp. 295-341


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pp. 343-352

E-ISBN-13: 9781587296666
E-ISBN-10: 1587296667
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877459767
Print-ISBN-10: 0877459762

Page Count: 376
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 219746626
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Gary Snyder and the Pacific Rim

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Subject Headings

  • Counterculture -- California.
  • Snyder, Gary, 1930- -- Homes and haunts -- Pacific Coast (North America).
  • Snyder, Gary, 1930- -- Knowledge -- Pacific Coast (North America).
  • Authors, American -- Homes and haunts -- Pacific Coast (North America).
  • Snyder, Gary, 1930- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Pacific Coast (North America) -- Intellectual life.
  • California -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • Pacific Coast (North America) -- In literature.
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