Gary Snyder was a marquee poet in the Sixties, when his eco-Buddhist paeans were read in every commune from Maine to Baja. Decades later, their misty imagism, indebted equally to Ezra Pound and Japanese haiku, seems cloying and sentimental, dependent on the Zeitgeist for its effect. The poetry of the day is passé when the day is past, its beauties no longer beautiful; and even a style stronger than Snyder’s may sooner or later seem obsolete, like the picket fences of Augustan couplets when the hurricane of romanticism swept through.

The poems of Danger on Peaks, Snyder’s first volume of new verse in twenty years, are a throwback to those heady days of Haight-Ashbury, free love, and Volkswagen buses, though what used to be poems are now mostly half-hearted diary jottings followed by a snippet of verse.[1] Snyder has been influenced by the travel journals of Bash? (the style...


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