Describing the title of his collection of poetry and occasional prose pieces, Gary Snyder writes in his introductory note that Turtle Island is "the old / new name for the continent, based on many creation myths of the people who have been here for millennia, and reapplied by some of them to 'North America' in recent years." The nearly five dozen poems in the book range from the lucid, lyrical, almost mystical to the mytho-biotic, while a few are frankly political. All, however, share a common vision: a rediscovery of this land and the ways by which we might become natives of the place, ceasing to think and act (after all these centuries) as newcomers and invaders.
Of particular interest is the full text of the ever more relevant "Four Changes," Snyder's seminal manifesto for environmental awareness.
About the Author
Born in 1930 in San Francisco, Gary Snyder grew up in the rural Pacific Northwest. He graduated from Reed College in 1951 with degrees in anthropology and literature, and later, 1953–56, studied Japanese and Chinese civilization at Berkeley, returning there to teach in the English Department. After participating in the San Francisco revival, the beginning of the beat poetry movement, with Ginsberg, Whalen, Rexroth and McClure, Snyder quietly went off to Japan in 1955 where he stayed for eighteen months, living in a Zen monastery. In 1958, he joined the tanker "Sappa Creek" and traveled around the world. In early 1959 he again returned to Japan where, apart from six months in India, he studied Kyoto under Oda Sesso Roshi, the Zen master and Head Abbot of Daitoku-Ji. He has spent further time (1966–67) in Japan on a Bollingen research grant. In 1969 he received a Guggenheim grant and toured the Southwestern United States visiting various Indian tribes.
Here is not the poet looking at nature, but rather, the poet erasing himself, and then taking away the periscope, too....Snyder has spent his lifetime doing this work, and in so doing has helped us see what is before us—what was before the US, what was vandalized and worse by its creation. If you haven’t read him, this book—which won a Pulitzer in 1975—is where to begin.
— John Freeman - Literary Hub