This Present Moment: New Poems Gary Snyder Counterpoint Press, 2015 88 pp.; $22.00 (Cloth)
A flat package arrived in the mail 15 years ago. When I opened the envelope it held a photocopy of the Candamaharoshana Tantra, both its original Sanskrit text and an English translation by the scholar Christopher S. George. A note Gary Snyder had tucked inside said, “I only give this to friends over 40, and married.”
The Candamaharoshana is a dialogue between Shiva and his wife, Parvati. Its intent is to break both attachment and revulsion toward the body through the most extreme sexual practices of devotion, cherishing the smells, the wastes, the hidden inward operations of digestion, excretion, salivation, and perspiration of the beloved’s physical body. In talking about two recent books, one by Gary Snyder, one a compilation of talks and lectures around his work, I want to keep that gift with its little note in mind, because it reveals two practices that run through Snyder’s writings.
Translations from Japanese by Jerome Rothenberg & Yasuhiro Yotsumoto
NOTE. Over a short lifetime, Nakahara Chuya (1907-1937) was a major innovator along lines originally shaped by Dada and other, earlier forms of European, largely French, experimental poetry. In 1997, as part of an annual poetry festival in his home prefecture of Yamaguchi, I came to his grave along with a group of Japanese poet-companions, to celebrate the 60th year of his death and the 90th of his birth. The poem marking that time, “At the Grave of Nakahara Chuya,” appeared a few years later in A Paradise of Poets and included a fake “translation” (a “transcreation” perhaps, as Harold de Campos might have had it) in what I took to be his style, or one of them, that brought some of his work into the domain of popular Japanese music.
[The Nine Songs by Qu Yuan (332–296 B.C.), excerpts from which appeared in the earlier editions of Technicians of the Sacred in Arthur Waley’s well-known & text-only translation, was in its origins a clear example of poetry as an act of “total performance.” Writes Wai-lim Yip as translator: “Recent scholarship, particularly the work of the poet-scholar Wen Yiduo, sees Qu Yuan’s The Nine Songs as a collection of songs of folk and oral nature used in ancient shamanistic ritualistic dramas performed near Dongting Lake in Hu’nan Provi