Review: This Present Moment

Andrea Miller reviews This Present Moment, by Gary Snyder.

Andrea Miller
31 July 2015

This Present Moment

Counterpoint, 88 pp., $22 (cloth)

This is Pulitzer Prize winner Gary Snyder’s first collection of new poems in ten years. In “Hai-en Temple South Korea Home of the Total Tripitaka Set of Printing Blocks,” he wakes us up with sound—the reverberations of a great drum, a bell, and sutra chanting. Then in “Mu Chi’s Persimmons,” he references the teachings of Dogen while treating us to a visceral feast of “sweet orange goop.”

Those are two of the poems in which Snyder addresses Buddhism head-on. In others, he simply conveys the spirit of Buddhism, and sometimes that’s even more satisfying. One of my favorite poems in the collection is “How to Know Birds.” It pithily summarizes the avian particulars to consider: time, place, quirks and calls, the fine points of plumage—lines, dots, and bars. These observations “will tell you the details you need to come up with a name/but,” says Snyder, getting to the heart of the matter, “you already know this bird.”

Andrea Miller

Andrea Miller

Andrea Miller is the editor of Lion’s Roar magazine. She’s the author of Awakening My Heart: Essays, Articles, and Interviews on the Buddhist Life, as well as the picture book The Day the Buddha Woke Up.