There are a lot of things I admire about the art of this poem, and there is something else about it that delights me. In those days Snyder, fresh out of Reed College with a degree in anthropology and literature, was reading Ezra Pound, the favorite poet of the avant garde, and adapted something of the rhythms of Pound's Cantos here. This was also the time of the folk revival in New York, when Bob Dylan was electrifying the young with versions of Woody Guthrie, who sang some of the IWW songs. This poem puts those two things together in the early vision of a young Northwest poet who would become the Thoreau of his generation. Funny in a way, given Pound's politics and his use of obscure Italian and Provencal history. It's as if Snyder said, "Ezra, meet Woody. Woody, this is Ezra." Here's the poem:
Ed McCullough, a logger for thirty-five years
"Thousands of boys shot and beat up
(This comes from "No Nature: New and Selected Poems," published by Pantheon.)
From Gary Snyder's Myths & Texts. Copyright 1978 by Gary Snyder.
Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
Robert Hass, former U.S. poet laureate, is the author, most recently, of the collection "Sun Under Wood."
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company
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