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David Ulin:This is a real honor for me to introduce one of the few literary role models I have, I still have, Gary Snyder. He embodies what I think of as the broad California sensibility of this 2-part conference. He's a figure of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance, whose vision extends south to Los Angeles to Los Angeles River, which he'll talk about a bit in a few minutes and west to Japan and the pacific rim. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 for his book, Turtle Island. He's been as you saw associated with the Beat Movement as I said with the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance with ecological, environment writing. He is one of theif not, one the two or three most significant California writers of the 20th century, American writers of the 20th century. A major force in bringing Buddhism into the mainstream of American culture. Roomed with Lew Welch and Philip Weyland at Reed College. I would love to have been in that room, and is the model for Japhy Ryder, the hero of Jack Kerouacs novel, The Dharma Bums. He speaks for himself, nervous as a leaf, introducing him. Please welcome, Gary Snyder. [Applause] Gary Snyder:Thank you. Well, I seem to have lucked out. Been the only person invited to this evening, this day, who writes poetry. And I don't know if thats a good thing or a bad thing. But I'm very grateful forfirst of all, to Louise Steinman for having invited mewell, for any setup, a special reading and gathering celebration of the life and work of my late friend, Lew Welch several years ago, which brought in a surprising number of people into this room. Reading his poems and reflecting on his life. In celebration of a new addition of Lews book, Ring of Bone that was republished by City Lights Press up in San Francisco. I'll tell you one thing about poetry. It's not fiction. Somebodysome woman pointed that out to me. I never figured it out that way before. She said poets dont write fiction. It isnt necessarily that what they write is always true but it's not fiction. Thats an interesting point and none of what I'm going to say and a few poems I'm going to read today are fiction because our territory or our subject matter I guess is our direct experience, consciousness, our direct experience of our own consciousness and our direct experience of the phenomenal physical world, which includes the supernatural as well as the natural, the supernatural being just another form of nature, my theory. As for regional since by education and upbringing and experience, I'm as much a person ofI'm a person of the entire West Coast, that is to say the specific side of the West Coast, west of the Cascade Mountains and west of the Sierra Nevada, being the sensibility, the cultural territory and also the ecological territory that I actually really know. From the streets of Georgia, which is the water waste between Vancouver island and the mainland of British Columbia, from the straights of Georgia down to Scammons Lagoon in Baja. I've been on all of it at one time or another, often on foot sometimes by kayak, sometimes by old car or truck. A young man I took seasonal employment with the four service for several summers on fire lookouts up in the north cascades just south of the Canadian border, and at that time I got to see the vast landscape of mountains and watersheds spread out 360 degrees around me in a way that I had never been able to see them before, which is to say everyday and everyday in different light and in different weather. I'm also a climber, a mountaineer, a snow peak climber, and I've been up to the top of virtually all of the snow peaks of the West Coast in the Pacific Northwest. But you never stay up on the summit more than a couple of hours and then you have to descend. So it's very significant to spend time as a fire lookout or something like it like a Chinese hermit and look around and see the change with the light as you go through the day. Otherwise, you know, I always thought of myself as ainitially I thought of myself as a rural kid from the atheist socialist, non-Scandinavian Pacific Northwest. I mean, all the people around us otherwise were atheist socialist Scandinavians up north of Seattle where I live on a dairy farm. I was on a little dairy farm. But seeing the mountains in that way over two seasons, contributed greatly to what I ended up doing as a poet particularly my main creation, a book length poem called Mountains and Rivers Without End. [Applause] Gary Snyder:Thank you. [Chuckles] And leaving that time on the lookout where I spent the winter at Berkley studying on Chinese and Japanese and [???][0:07:20.7] After a few years of doing that, I did make it over to Japan where I stayed for 10 years. And recognized in Japan that the prefecturesthat is to say counties in states, the prefecture is something thats bigger than most American counties but smaller than most American states. And is one of the main divisions of the nation. In earlier times, before modern times, they were called one, it had slightly different boundaries, they were futile, feudatories during the tokugawa period. Anyway, every single one of those was a natural watershed and most of the prefectures are natural watersheds. You cross the prefectural boundary when you cross the mountain range and go over the pass into the next mountain, into the next watershed. That kind of kneeled down for me a habit of perception of watersheds. I'm coming toI'm working my way toward Los Angeles. [Laughing] Gary Snyder:So when I returned to this country with my family finally by ship in 1969, I immediately launched myself into the environment movement such as it was here already and also begin to travel as much as I could. That was when I made my first trip down in Baja. The length of Baja California, and begin to spend time in Los Angeles and to see with friends who are here and became aware that there was a little stream that ran through it that was called the Los Angeles River and what I saw of course is everybody saw back around 1969 was a generalized more or less concreted sizable, certainly big enough ditch fenced on both sides, and very few points of access to go within it. And I met people at that time, who, young people, people my age who told me how they would get through the fence and go down and catch polliwogs and play around in it. And then I also saw, you must all have seen these at one time or another, what movie is it that they race their cars down this end? Is that Saturday Night Fever? Greece? Okay. So that was the Los Angeles River. Okay. So now I'm back up in my own country. The place where I build a house up in the Sierra Nevada, 25 miles north of Nevada City which is not in Nevada. It's in California. I have to tell people, and still managing to get down here from time to time. Met the poet, Lewis MacAdams who at that time was living in Bolinas, and with Lewis and some other poet friends of the Bay Area, we all did a big benefit poetry reading performance in San Francisco for Green Peace. You were part of that, Lewis. You know, in those days, you know, we try to save the world by giving benefit poetry, readings and baking cookies. Those are our sources of funding. A few years later, Lewis, I was coming down here to do a program for the Lannan Foundation, thats right. And I met up with Lewis over, what, Silver Lake? Is that what you call it? And he saidI'm forgetting the first part of this. Lewis reported to me when I was still up in the Bay Area and he had moved down here. Thats right. Lewis had moved down here and he reported to me that he and some artist and poet friends had decided to cheer up the Los Angeles River, because it was being grievously neglected and nobody paid any joyous or any other sort of attention to it. Now I wasnt present to witness this but I heard that they read poems to it, saying to it, danced for it, and here's the important point, Lewis asked permission of the river to speak on its behalf to the human beings, and I presumed he got it. This was the first event of the little tiny group of people who call themselves the friends of the Los Angeles River. What year was that? Mr. MacAdams is here tonight and he's going to read one of his poems for us at the end of my evening or my part of the evening. Well, it doesnt matter. It was 70some time in the 70s or very early 80s he did that. So when I came down herethe invitation was the Lannan Foundation. Lewis asked me if we could do a small fundraiser. It is housed with a few people to get enough money together to have some wine and cookies for the Los Angeles River. People did turn out for that. Then I went over to the Lannan Foundation and did my show for them. A little later, it was reported back to meat that time, I was on the California Arts Council. Thats right. I've been appointed to it by Jerry Brown, who was the first time that he was governor. So I visited San Francisco from time to time. I was even selected to be the chair of the California Arts Council and I complained. I tried to resist. I tried to turn it down. I saidI dont even have a telephone, which was true. And they said, Oh that doesnt matter, which means that I didn't matter. [Laughing] Gary Snyder:But it was a charmingI like the word that David Ulin said earlier. It was a charming trope. So I talked to Lewis I guess on the phone but we didn't have a phone for 25 years. Later we did, the phone company actually didn't have any work one summer and they ran a crew in there with a ditch digging machine and put an underground telephone line in at my place and for some of my neighbors. He said that he got a call. I think it was Lewis. It might have been somebody else. They got a call from the State of California Water Quality Board saying, Are you the friends of the Los Angeles River? And they said yes and they said, Well, wouldnt you like to apply for a grant? They thought they were a real river organization. So that was the beginning. I'm really shortening the story up here but that was the beginning of the transformation of what was originally artists, musicians, and dancers little group of animists into people who also had to take account of real-life politics and real life activities, and it grew incrementally and slowly and I'm sure a lot of you know this story already pretty well by now that involved getting the ascentof the Chinese people in China? No. Getting the ascent of a lot of Hispanics. The getting the ascent of the neighbors, who apparently said, Sure, we like to see the river more. And led into the development of plantings, trails, paths. It led gradually to the de-concreting and opening up some parts of the riverbed by jackhammering the cement out or whatever they did, artwork, a little bit of artwork, more access points all along, and it is still underway, that work. It led to ultimately a little float of kayakers kayaking on it, which was bitterly resisted. I think it was by the core of engineers, the army core of engineers. Okay, here's why. As I understand the story. Lewis, you can correct me if I'm really badly off, but if it's just a minor mistake, dont bother. The question of the ownership of the Los Angeles River was one of the key questions originally. The city and the countys head decided it was a drainage ditch and was treated as a drainage ditch and used as a drainage ditch and that justified fencing it out, fencing people out of it. As I understand, the little flotilla of kayaks proved the argument that it was a navigable stream, which puts it in under a federal jurisdiction and takes away much of the cloud that the county and its agencies or the city and these agencies might exercise over it, and that leads to the obligation to treat it as a recreation destination and that becomes part now of the present history of it as it still evolves. And the point has been very well made that Mike Davis made in his couple of his books on Los Angeles that Los Angeles has very little public land, very few public parks. As those of you who I have read Mike Davis might know. At one time in the 20s, I think it was in the 20s, there was an agreement in underway and studies being done to make a fair size park in downtown Los Angeles somewhat modeled on Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and with one of the homesteads involved in it. They were getting close to be getting to get started on and a very strong movement led by the business community to cancel it all apparently canceled it all. So thats another one of the things as well as the streetcars that Los Angeles unfortunately lost out on in its history. And the original park probably would have included parts of the Los Angeles River, the original parkland. So finally you're getting it, some public land downtown. With that in mind and other questions of watersheds around the United States in mind, I wrote a piece that is in my book, A Place In Space called. What did I call this one? Coming in to the watershed. I'm going to read just a couple of paragraphs from it. Because not everybody understands what a watershed is. In fact, I found out that in Japanese, there was no word for it. When I gave some talks on watershed consciousness over there and it's taken often a big way now. A watershed is a marvelous thing to consider. This process of rain falling, streams flowing, oceans evaporating, causes every molecule of the water on earth to make the complete trip once every 2 million years. All the oceans turnover in a 2-million-year cycle and run down the streams and go back to the ocean again is what that is saying. The earths surface is carved into watersheds, a kind of familial branching, a chart of relationships, a definition of place. The watershed is the first and last nation whose boundaries goes subtly shifting are unarguable. Races of birds, subspecies of trees, types of hats or rain gear, folk songs often go by the watershed. For the watershed, cities and dams are ephemeral and of no more account than a boulder that falls in the river or a landslide that temporary alters the channel. The water will always be there or it will come back and it was always find its way down. It will come back in nets, something we also know. The long-term environmental history of California, that is to say just the last 11, 000 years since the close of the last ice age, just that little short time. Within that time, the last 11,000 years, there was a very hot spell around 5,000 years ago and it lasted maybe a thousand years. And during that time, all of the glaciers and all of the snowfields in California were totally melted out and there was a 200-year drought. And then it all came back again, got cooler again. So dont worry. [Laughter] Gary Snyder:I'm afraid. As constrained and polluted as the Los Angeles River is at the moment, it can also be said that in the larger picture, that river is alive and well. I wrote this long ago. Under the city streets, running through giant culverts wherever it has to go, it may be amused by such diversions as dams and bridges. But the way you live in terms of centuries rather than millions of years must hold the watershed and its communities together. So that our children might enjoy the clear waters and fresh life of this landscape we have chosen. From the tiniest rivulet at the crest of the ridge, to the main trunk of a river approaching the low lands, the river is all one place and it's all one land. The water cycle includes our springs and wells, our sierra snow packs, our irrigation canals, our carwash and the springit's the spring peeper and the pond and the acorn woodpecker chattering on a snake. The watershed is beyond dichotomies of orderly or disorderly for its forms are free but somehow inevitable. The life that comes to flourish within it constitutes the first kind of community. So thats from A Place in Space. I'm going to read now one poem for this basin. It's called The Night Song of the Los Angeles Basin. And then I'm going to ask Lewis MacAdams to come up and read the final poem. Where did it go? Darn, I have to go back and get your book. Oh, it's right here. Okay, I got it. In Lewis MacAdams fine book called The River, books 1, 2 and 3. So I'll read a poem and then Lewis will read a poem. Night Song of the Los Angeles Basin. One word in here that you might not be acquainted with is the word Jinja. J-I-N-J-A. Its a Japanese word for a little nature shrine. They are all over Japan. Sometimes so tiny you won't notice them. Sometimes huge like all of Mt. Fuji is a Jinja. And Fuji actually, is not a Japanese word. It's an Ainu word and it's the name of the volcano goddess, the fire goddess. A lot of place names in Honshu, the main island of Japan actually come from the earlier indigenous people of that area who are the Ainu and who are gradually starting around the 5th century A.D. drive back and back until finally there were only on Hokkaido. But they didn't get limited to Hokkaido until really about the 17th century. So I invoke a Jinja here in Los Angeles, which is perfectly possible to do. My friend, Susan Suntree whos here tonight wrote a whole book called The Sacred Sites of Los Angeles. Night Song of the Los Angeles Basin. Owl calls, pollen dust blows. Swirl of light strokes writhing. Knot-tying light paths. The calligraphy of cars. Los Angeles basin and hill slopes. Checkered with streetways. Floral loops of the freeway express and exchange. Dragons of light in the dark sweep going both ways in the night city belly. The passage of light end to end and rebound, ride drives all heading somewhere, etch in their traces to nights eye-mind. Calligraphy of cars. Vole paths. Mouse trails worn in on meadow grass; Winding pocket-gopher tunnels, marmot lookout rocks. Houses with green watered gardens slip under the ghost of the dry chaparral. Ghost shrine to the Los Angeles River. The Jinja that never was there is there. Where the river debouches the place of the moment of trembling and gathering and giving so that lizards clap hands therejust lizards come pray, saying, Please give us health and long life. A mouse, a hawk. Slash of calligraphy of freeways of cars. Into the pools of the channelized river the goddess in tall rain dress tosses a handful of mea Gold bellies roil, mouth-bubbles, frenzy of feeding, the common ones, the bright-colored rare ones show up, they tangle and tumble, godlings ride by in Rolls Royce wide-eyes in brokers halls liften in hotels being presented to, platters of tidbit and wine, snatch of fame, churn and roil, meal gone, the water subsides. A mouse, a haw. The calligraphy of lights on the night freeways of Los Angeles will long be remembered. Owl calls; late-rising moon. [Applause] Gary Snyder:Thank you. Here you are my friend. Get the mic. [Chuckles] There it is. Lewis MacAdams:Alright. I just came by to relax and listen to Gary read, which is one of the great pleasures of life and Ithen he said, oh you're going to read this poem. This is as usualno, not as usual, this is an entirely surreal experience for me. When I was a teenager, I first started reading Gary, I remember readingI was in the back of a greyhound bus going through Raton Pass in New Mexico and reading Garys poems illuminate by sheet lighting. And out relationship has always had that aspect. One time I was going to do an interview with Gary for Rolling Stone, and they wanted 10,000 words and anybody thats a journalist remembers those days fine. And Gary figured out that it would take us an hour and a half I think it was to do 10,000exchange 10,000 words, and damn it, he was exactly precisely on. And I think thats what I've always taken from Gary is that kind offor me, a wish for and rarely attained precision that I've had to make up for and babble and song. And this isand I could go on and on. This is from a book called The River, books 1, 2, and 3, which you can still find in discerning bookstores around the globe. And in case you dont, I'll be glad to sell you one for $10. And this is the last poem in this book. It's called The Voice of the River, and much to my surprise, there is a very tombstone-looking plaque at Los Angeles Feliz Boulevard [???][0:32:53.6] which is now where thisthe couple of lines from this poem now exist and I just found out today somebody had totally graffiti it, and I said, welcome to LA to myself one more time. The voice of the river is a red wing blackbird twittering in the trash bags festooned across the branches of a cottonwood like prayer flags. The freeways are louder than the river, the I-5, the 110, the LB overwhelm the river and its tributaries with their roar. But when the tributaries bring their gifts of rain water to the main stem. The river can be louder than the thunder rolling out of the San Gabriels. The voice of the river is the golf balls clanking in the power towers and the kids on their bicycles laughing when they spot the mud people moving along the sand bars in silent meditation. I hear the river singing through the passing railroad cars. The screeching metal as the metro link commuter train tears apart. News choppers circle overhead. The howling ambulance sirens followed by the coyotes pack howl. The high-pitch chee and the endless meetings always 1 or 2 more. The laptops clicking the. The TMDLs, the BMPs, the RFPs, the SSOs and the UAAs, the murmuring bureaucrats, those sharp whack of gavels. The deep voice of command. The swooping bats and the swallows and swifts. I listen for them to make my own hearing more acute. The scream of a fish hawk. The flapping of a hundred pigeons and the rock doves too scatter in fear. A great blue hair and sorrowful hawk. The trail and ripple of water moving across rocks. At the center of itself, the river is silence and thats where I come in with the sounds in my head and the words in my heart. Thank you and thank you Gary. [Applause] Gary Snyder:Thank you. I'll be out in a few seconds. [Applause] Gary Snyder:Thank you Lewis MacAdams and thanks to all of you for being here tonight and for being here all day. Those of you who wereI learned so much today. I'm glad I came early enough. [Applause]