This collection of essays by Gary Snyder, now in paperback, blazes with insight. In his most autobiographical writing to date, Snyder employs fire as a metaphor for the crucial moment when deeply held viewpoints yield to new experiences, and our spirits and minds broaden and mature. Snyder here writes and riffs on a wide range of topics, from our sense of place and a need to review forestry practices, to the writing life and Eastern thought. Surveying the current wisdom that fires are in some cases necessary for ecosystems of the wild, he contemplates the evolution of his view on the practice, while exploring its larger repercussions on our perceptions of nature and the great landscapes of the West. These pieces include recollections of his boyhood, his involvement with the literary community of the Bay Area, his travels to Japan, as well as his thoughts on American culture today. All maintain Snyder’s reputation as an intellect to be reckoned with, while often revealing him at his most emotionally vulnerable. The final impression is holistic: We perceive not a collection of essays, but a cohesive presentation of Snyder’s life and work expressed in his characteristically straightforward prose.
Back on the Fire
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Gary Snyder is the author of more than twenty collections of poetry and prose. Since 1970 he has lived in the watershed of the South Yuba River in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1975, Snyder has also been awarded the Bollingen Prize for Poetry and the Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award. His 1992 collection, No Nature, was a National Book Award finalist, and in 2008 he received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Snyder is a poet, environmentalist, educator and Zen Buddhist.