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Lions Roar : January 2005
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2005 85 DANGER ON PEAKS By Gary Snyder Shoemaker and Hoard, 2004; 128 pp., $22 (cloth) Danger on Peaks is Gary Snyder’s first poetry collection in more than twenty years. He does here what he’s always done best—turning an unblinking and appre- ciative eye on the natural world and human ecology. These poems evoke outer and inner landscapes that have worn and changed with time but are still imposingly alive. For a seventy-five-year-old, he evi- dences less nostalgia and mortality-consciousness here than you might presume. And when it’s present, it’s delivered with honest humor, as in the poem “Waiting for a Ride”: ...it’s good to know that the Pole Star drifts! / that even our present night sky slips away, / not that I’ll see it. / Or maybe I will, much later, / some far time walking the spirit paths of the sky, / that long walk of spir- its—where you fall right back into the / “Narrow painful passage of the Bardo” / squeeze your little skull / and there you are again / waiting for your ride. CIVIL DISOBEDIENCES: Poetics and Politics in Action Edited by Anne Waldman and Lisa Birman Coffee House Press, 2004; 469 pp., $18 (paper) In 1846 Henry David Thoreau spent a night in Concord, Massachusetts jail because he refused to pay a poll tax that supported the Mexican-American War. During that night he composed a letter on the civic obligation of a citizen to oppose immoral government policies, which became the basis for the famous essay entitled Civil Disobedience (and which would, more than one hundred years later, inspire Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”). This Civil Disobediences is a reader on cre- ativity and thoughtful, muse-inspired activism. Through a vari- ety of contributor voices and formats (talks, lectures, essays, colloquia, interviews and other documents) Civil Disobediences, edited by Anne Waldman and Lisa Birman, offers an eclectic and passionate look at how politics drives the creative experi- ence, and vice versa, and the impact that interaction has on society. These voices agree with Thoreau—it’s the poet-activist’s duty to aim high in shaping American society and opposing the forces that would blight it. Waldman says, “There is an intention here of making a difference, of words as actions, of keeping the world safe for poetry with wit and attendant wisdom.” Books in Brief REVIEWED BY ANDREA MCQUILLIN