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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

15. Poetry of Liberation

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Activities: Author Activities

Gary Snyder - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: Poets often refer to their literary ancestors, usually to align themselves with a particular tradition or to provide context for their work. Why does Snyder refer to Milton in "Milton by Firelight"?

  2. Comprehension: Snyder uses quotation marks in a curious manner in "Beneath My Hand and Eye the Distant Hills. Your Body." What is the effect of the unconventional grammar and syntax? What is the purpose of the spacing, line breaks, and other visual techniques on the page?

  3. Comprehension: What is the speaker's attitude toward nature in "Ripples on the Surface"? What is the effect of the unconventional punctuation toward the end of the poem?

  4. Context: How would you describe Snyder's treatment of nature in his work? How does he broaden our concept of the American landscape?

  5. Context: Snyder's poetry rarely confronts political and social issues like Vietnam or civil rights. Why do you think he chooses to avoid these hot-button issues? Are there ways in which his poetry could be described as politically and socially radical?

  6. Context: The figure of Kokopelli, the ancient Hopi god of fertility, appears frequently in Snyder's poetry. What might Snyder's purpose be in using Kokopelli, particularly in "The Blue Sky"?

  7. Exploration: "The Blue Sky" seems to unite Snyder's interest in Buddhism, India, and Native American culture. What is the effect of blending all these influences? How do the unconventional line breaks affect the meaning of the poem?

  8. Exploration: Snyder's reverence for physical labor aligns him with Robert Frost. Compare Snyder's "Milton by Firelight" to Frost's "Mowing" or "After Apple-Picking." What do these poets share in technique and theme? Where do they diverge? How does this respect for work and the outdoors connect to American identity?

  9. Exploration: Snyder's interest in the Far East, particularly Zen Buddhism, along with his knowledge of the Chinese language and culture, connect him to the high modernists, particularly Ezra Pound. Snyder's concrete, economical imagery is also reminiscent of imagism. How does Snyder's work both continue and revise these central themes of modernist poetry?

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