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390 WesternAmerican Literature noted Laurence critics, and is a welcome addition to the growing number of works on Margaret Laurence. TERESA D. DANIELL San Antonio, Texas The San Francisco Poetry Renaissance, 1955-1960. By Warren French. (Boston: Twayne’s United States Authors Series, Twayne Publishers, 1991. 143 pages, $24.95.) Warren French, the author of The San Francisco Poetry Renaissance, 19551960 , has composed what he himselfcalls a “preliminary history”ofthe Beat era in the BayArea. We are told thatJack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg are not to be discussed at any length in this history; rather, his historical outline focuses principally on the efforts located and centralized in San Francisco. The problem is the aforementioned Beat forerunners do a poor job of remaining in the background. French’s camera eye continually shifts and pans, often forgetting his own protestations that the miseen scèneof his “San Francisco story”remain in San Francisco. However, this does not prevent The SanFrancisco PoetryRenaissance,1955-1960from achieving the status ofan extremely necessary book among Beat scholarship. Warren French’s thorough knowledge of little known publications, publication histories and the socio-political climate makes the work a historically invaluable reference towards the investigation of an era. French demonstrates familiarity with both poet and publisher, critic and cynic, reviewer and reviewed, no matter how remote, including the neglected mem­ bers of the eclectic Beat underground whose accomplishments were frequently ill-noticed and who strived to avoid the notoriety strained and stained by the label of “beatnik.” Although San Francisco and its environs sets the scope ofhis work, French’s history claims to limit itself to highlighting the “beat frequency” when that broadcast issues forth from the Bay Area. Although Ginsberg’s reading of the first section of Howl at the Six Gallery on October 7, 1955, undisputedly marks the beginning of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance,just as the final publica­ tion of the collective Beat effort, Beatitude, ended it in the Spring of 1960, it would be a misnomer to say that the content ofFrench’swork neatly falls within these parameters. Perhaps these loosely-adhered-to parameters justify the work such that it warrants inclusion in Twayne’s United States Authors Series. The title, and its seemingly restrictive window of time and place, should not discourage the student or scholar from this informative work. French’s observations are the result of fifteen years of meticulous research and The SanFranciscoPoetryRenais­ sance, 1955-1960 is refreshingly objective in its avoidance of the extremes of Reviews 391 worshipful over-effusiveness and scathing disgust that mark much of what has previously been noted of this most remarkable era and its colorful inhabitants. For the moment, enough has been recorded of their lives; this history of their times is long overdue. JAMES RULAND Radford University CriticalEssays On GarySnyder. Edited by Patrick D. Murphy. (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1990. 267 pages, $38.00.) Gary Snyder has generally been treated by critics as a public figure first, as a poet second. In part it is because his life has been so well publicized, first as a member of the San Francisco Beat scene, later as a long-term resident of a Zen monastery in Kyoto, member of a communal ashram on an island in southern Japan, most visible figure in an environmentally centered community in the Sierra foothills, and frequent spokesman against nuclear power, uncontrolled and unplanned rural development, and the destruction of the environment. The superficial treatment of Snyder’s poetry is also attributable, though, to its built-in difficulties. In subject, it is consistently reflective of Snyder’s own experiences, moving with time from back-country work in the Pacific Northwest to life inJapan to the raising ofchildren and a home in California to contempo­ rary environmental politics. Yet the poetry is not lyric in the usual sense, for it maintains a kind offlat-surfaced objectivity that avoids self-reflection and moral dilemmas. In structure, Snyder’spoetry—highly irregular on the page, rhythmi­ cally reliant on breath groups, seemingly intended for reading aloud—owes much to haiku, renga, and other Chinese and Japanese forms. It is not surpris­ ing, then, that most Snyder criticism has focused on the man, his influences...


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