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Gary Snyder Reading at the Art Institute of Chicago by Tim W. Brown

Gary Snyder Reading at the Art Institute of Chicago by Tim W. Brown

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Published by Tim W. Brown
"Gary Snyder Reading at the Art Institute of Chicago," an essay by Tim W. Brown. Originally appeared in the December 1992 issue of Letter eX.
"Gary Snyder Reading at the Art Institute of Chicago," an essay by Tim W. Brown. Originally appeared in the December 1992 issue of Letter eX.

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Published by: Tim W. Brown on Jul 28, 2009
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07/28/2009

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Gary Snyder at the Art Institute of Chicago, November 10th, 1992By Tim W. BrownAt least once a week I yearn to see stars, which city lights wash out of the nighttime sky,along with any wisdom they might inspire. I pondered this thought, evidence of my personaldisconnectedness from nature, as I listened to Gary Snyder, who read his poetry to a largeaudience at the Art Institute of Chicago on Tuesday, November 10, 1992.Displacement is a phenomenon Snyder observes in most of the U.S. population, not justcity residents. What is needed, he explained in his opening remarks, is for "society to becomemore at home in the Western Hemisphere." That Americans need to form a deeper attachment tonature is a theme that emerged repeatedly in poems from two books he read from,
 No Nature
, arecent collection of selected poems, and
Mountains and Rivers Without End 
, a work in progress.According to Snyder, the danger of becoming alienated from nature is spiritual death. Inhis poem "At Tower Peak," he rails against suburbia's advance across the landscape of southernCalifornia. He likens the process to glaciers spreading through valleys and erasing the wilderness,causing us to "wake to the same old world of no names," a world of landscapes that have losttheir distinctive identities. The effect: contemporary Americans find themselves in a spiritual iceage, an "age of frozen hearts."To reconnect, Snyder believes individuals need to become better custodians of the land.Through a "move of the heart," we must take responsibility for preserving our environment, for its own sake as well as for spiritual renewal. He denies that there is a uniform way to accomplishthis -- in "Off the Trail," he says "The trail is not the way/No path will get you there." Snyder'sown particular path is Zen Buddhism, which he studied for twelve years in Japan. His poem "TheHump-Backed Flute Player" takes the form of a Buddhist meditation; in it Snyder catalogues thefar-flung Southwestern locales where this prehistoric stick-figure drawing has been found. He
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