Sunday, June 22, 2008

Buddha Beat: Snyder, Kerouac, and the End of the Beginning of the End

Two Beat items of interest: 1) the reemergence of the Beatnik Questionnaire and 2) a short but very deep interview with Gary Snyder, entitled The Koan Ranger. I first saw item 1 in a posting by the glorious Bookslut and then had it forwarded by a friend giving me a gentle nudge, the second comes courtesy of the Poetry Foundation.

The Snyder interview is more Buddha than Beat: no, wait, that's the same thing or maybe not.

No, wait, that's Zen: is that Buddha and Beat or Buddha or Beat or Buddha or Beat or what?

Yeah, or what.

Ok, so there is a third Beat related item: one of my favorite sites since forever is Lit Kicks, which has morphed over the years and is now the Literary Kicks blog. It is always at least interesting and frequently much more. Check it out.

Yes, as you probably already suspected, there is a fourth thing Beat: since it ain't a poetry blog if there ain't no poems, here are a couple of haikus from one of the Near Perfect Books of Poetry. I decided to open Kerouac's Book of Haikus at random and here are three of the eight haikus on facing pages (now I lost the page and can't find it again to let you know - can you beat that?):


Just woke up
-----afternoon pines
Playing the wind

Ah the birds
--at dawn,
my mother and father

You paid yr homage
--to the moon,
And she sank


Right, four Buddha related items, three Buddha related poems. Not too shabby, and that's Beat thing number five.


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PS pp. 146-147 ... I found it.


Greg said...


That Beatnik questionnaire was pretty funny! I'll have to check out that Gary Snyder interview. Still have a copy of "Myths & Texts" on my shelf that I haven't gotten to yet.

Thanks for sharing those Kerouac haikus... there's something about them that just puts you in a good mood. Here's two of my favorite:

A turtle sailing along
on a log,
Head up

(p. 20)

The cow, taking a big
dreamy crap, turning
To look at me

(p. 43)

Greg said...

forgot about the weird blogspot formats... wouldn't let me indent those poems, I guess.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Yeah, weird old blogspot. The way I indent is change the text to white and then use a fill character like a dash - works if you have a white background although I noticed the dashes show up in some feed readers for some reason.

Absolutely love "The cow" one. Somehow he has taken the form over and made it his own and yet it has the feel of traditional haiku. Truly amazing.

The Snyder interview is Buddha heavy but mercifully short ... a lot like life!

Your order is all packed up and ready to go out in the mail tomorrow morning ...


Charles Gramlich said...

I have to admit, that I'm not all that big a fan of Kerouac's haiku. They definitely have the feel and flow of relaxed haiku, but for me they don't capture a single image like Issa does.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Hey, Charles:

I can understand how you feel about Kerouac. I think there is very little margin for error in haiku and that doesn't take into account differences in style and approach.

Some of the classic haiku writers don't click for me - Basho is a prime example. There are works of his I love but, on the whole, not so much. The haiku big-wigs assure us that the work is simply untranslatable or that Western sensibilities can't cut it in the understanding department.

But then, my friend, as you say, there is Issa.

Richard Wright, someone whose work I respect, I also don't connect with when it came to haiku.

Same with western poets. More often than not, I'm not bowled over by Snyder. Again, when I am, I find the work quite good. The poems I linked to in the post under Snyder's name I liked a lot.


Greg said...

I can definitely see where someone wouldn't like Kerouac's haiku. Some of them are pretty far out there. But like you said, Don, there are some "classic" haiku that I certainly don't understand (or appreciate).

As for Richard Wright, there are some of his haiku that I really like (like the laughing boy/snowflake one), but on the whole he never really made an impression on me as a haiku poet.

But, to each his own. Looking forward to reading those Dennis Maloney translations -- thanks, Don!