Gary Snyder: Washington, DC

from “It Pleases”

Far above the dome
Of the capitol—
It’s true!
A large bird soars
Against white cloud,
Wings arced,
Sailing easy in this
Humid Southern sun-blurred
the dark-suited policeman
watches tourist cars—
And the center,
The center of power is nothing!
Nothing here.
Old white stone domes,
Strangely quiet people,
Earth-sky-bird patterns
Idly interlacing
The world does what it pleases.

About the Author

Gary Snyder

Prize winner, 1975

Gary Snyder was born in San Francisco, California and grew up on a farm in the Pacific Northwest. He attended Reed College as an undergraduate, then enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley’s Asian Language Program, where he learned Japanese and Chinese. He also began to have his poetry published. In 1955, Snyder read his poem “Berry Feast” at San Francisco’s Six Gallery reading alongside fellow Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Other attendees were Snyder’s friends Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In 1956, Snyder—having received a scholarship from the First Zen Institute of America to study Zen Buddhism—boarded a freighter to Kyoto, Japan. He lived abroad for more than 10 years, traveling extensively. He published the poetry collections, Riprap (1959) and Myths & Texts (1960), which documented his personal experiences. Snyder became an environmental activist, known for his simple, clear style, as well as his depictions of the natural world. In 1975, his collection Turtle Island was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Snyder taught creative writing at the University of California at Davis from 1986 until 2002, when he retired as a professor emeritus.

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