8th Annual Literary Festival
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The Mace & Crown, Thursday, October 17, 1985

Poet's work reflects Asian culture

Suzanne Willman

     Gary Snyder, a Literary Festival participant, entertained and informed audiences on Tuesday, Oct. 8 at both his 12:30 lecture and 8:00 reading.
      Snyder's lecture encompassed his travel of China during the winter of 1984. Invited by Chinese Writers Association, Snyder and other American writers, including William Least Heat Moon and Allen Ginsberg, participated in a four-day cultural exchange in Benjing.
      Snyder said that literacy is important to government because intellectuals are mostly power oriented and writers are very highly valued. It is the duty of writers to be "whistle blowers" or critics.
      "It is assumed that they will speak honestly," said Snyder.
      He said Chinese writers would find it a luxury to be asked why they write. The people are mutually educated, street educated. It's their own education, a wandering education.
      During Snyder's evening performance he read from Regarding Wave, Turtle Island and Axe Handles. Turtle Island, Synder's most popular work selling over one million copies, was the 1975 Pulitzer prize winner. Axe Handles, his most recent work, was a ten year project.
      In a later interview, Snyder answered questions about his style.
      Q: Are the abrupt line movements in your poetry intentional or are they spontaneous?
      A: This is a question that should never come up. It should be understood that work that we do is intentional and is formal and is to help you to understand t point and get the rhythms of it.
      Q: Do you consider the line break like it is half that of a comma's pause?
      A: I wouldn't try to pin it down to a one punctuation. That is too artificial. Punctuation is actually the reverse.
      Q: Do you edit your work?
      A: A poem is deliberate and it might be once in a great while that my initi
al writing of it is as accurate as it is going to be. But usually I will find myself looking at it many times and turning it this way and that, and I will be doing several levels of revision and I never consider the poem finished until I've kept it around for six or eight months or a year because over a period of time, looking at periodically, I get different perspectives on it.
      Q: Do you see that your poetry has changed over the last 30 years?
      A: I would just say that it has changed for sure, but I still continue to work with types of formal areas and types of t
hematic areas and that the expansion of some of my poetry comes about by wide appreciation of different poetic traditions. The poems of vernacular Indian Eskimo singing added to my sense of possibilities.
      Q: Where do you feel that you have your roots as a writer?
      A: I think my roots are Pacific basin which extends from China to the Rock and across the North Pacific.