Gary Snyder’s Birthday

Gary Snyder Kyoto Summer 1963 in Cafe, at rest, Juniken-doro Street, Kita-ku section near Datoku-ji temple where he studied. (photo: Allen Ginsberg, courtesy Stanford University Libraries/Allen Ginsberg Estate)

Gary Snyder celebrates his 89th birthday today. Happy Birthday Gary!

We feature today a guest posting from our friend (and Gary’s), Gary Lawless

“In 1973 I left Maine on my own for the first time, and hitch-hiked to California. I had written to my favorite poet, Gary Snyder, and asked if I could live with him, as his apprentice. When I look back on it now, I am amazed by my naïve asking to go and live with not only Gary, but his family, at their home in the California Sierras. I now marvel at his generosity, his kindness, his patience, and his devotion to passing along what he has learned. I think that he shares this with Allen Ginsberg, and that those aspects are not celebrated enough. For a teenager in Maine, and I suspect for many others, Gary offered many new paths to walk, to explore. From Basho to Jaime De Angulo, from Han Shan to Nanao Sakaki, from Kenji Miyazawa to Joanne Kyger and Lew Welch. Trails led to Native American poetry and myth, to Chinese and Japanese poetry, to Zen Buddhism, to walking and climbing and traveling, to the words ecology, bioregion, watershed. Through his poetry, essays, interviews, and readings Gary Snyder has explored the wild exterior and interior worlds, and brought word back. He has given many of us new ways of seeing the world, and of being in the world, new ways to walk, new paths to take. Our friend Nanao said that he wanted to hike the Milky Way. Gary’s poetry , his life work, make it possible to move from our own hearts out into the stars. In a recent interview in the New York Times Book Review, Gary says “I take it as a challenge to look for the storyteller of the planet.” He is still out there looking, creating, reporting back, and following his own advice:
“Stay together.
Learn the flowers.
Go light.”


    If Ginsberg ‘d changed ( saved & ruined ) my life when I’d come across him in my early youth……Gary Snyder later ‘d turned my path into a Path of sanity…
    I cannot imagine my life without the deep influence of his writings……
    He recently wrote to me to….give up writing poems and turn into “prose instead”….
    I haven’t done so…BUT I would prefer to stop writing completely and still have his wisdom by my side…..than , eventually, become a real …”poet” without his …blessings….

  2. Happy birthday, Gary Snyder! And thanks, Gary Lawless, for sharing this story and heartfelt tribute to your friend and mentor. I can’t help thinking about Snyder’s poem “Axe Handles” … It’s, truly, how we go on!

  3. Happy Birthday Gary! Thank you for sharing and loving our Carole, Mika and KJ! Bless you always!
    Anne Ramsay Estes

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