Sunday, March 04, 2012

Snyder, beat bums... and parrots

A few weeks ago I ordered one of my favorite documentary films, 'The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill'.
I didn't realize but it's actually rated G which means the kids can watch it. They loved it just because of the parrots.. but there's more to the story. Anyway this post isn't all about the film so much but where it's lead me.

The film is set in San Francisco... the most interesting city in the US by far! (Well I haven't been to many but it is a cool place! and home to The Great Beat movement!) The film follows this fella Mark Bittner, who has lived the life of a 'Dharma bum' in inner San Francisco... Mark befriends and nurchures a growing flock of feral Conure parrots. It's really a lovely story about Mark, the birds, his relationship with the birds and his freestyle life, which I can't help admiring.

Anyway there's a bit in the film where Mark mentions the legendary Beat era and the heroes who created it... or at least featured in it's happening! In once scene is an image of a bookshop with a the cover of a Kerouac book, which set me off thinking some more about on the Road, Dharma Bums and wondering who were those other guys he used to hang out with?

It might seem a bit odd that it has taken me so long to find out about a bunch of fellas who had soared so high so long before I was born. The Beat Generation was a movement or an event that happened way back in the 50s! I remember watching cartoons in the 70s that had some funny stereotypes of Beatnik poets but I never really knew anything about them until a mate recommended I read 'On the Road'. That was more than 10 years ago.

I've since read a bunch of Kerouac's stuff. He really appealed to me and I identified with him straight away! Of course what he really represented to me was what I would have been if I'd completely cut loose rather than the reality of my actual life. Anyway I remember as I was reading Kerouac that I'd looked into the rest of the pack he used to muck around with. They each had their own unique style and talents, Ginsberg may have been really out there, but Snynder seemed to be coming from a far more informed place... Maybe why he didn't appeal to me immediately. They all had something special to offer but I was just too wrapped up in Jack's crazy Egotistical and probably immature world that I wasn't able to absorb what the others had to offer. Now that I think of it his books tended to put his own perspective as the pinnacle experience which may have sabotaged my impression of the others before even knowing who they were. He somehow managed to keep me enthralled and attached to his character above all the rest. Even at his worst.

Now I've finally found Gary Snyder and I'm wondering why has it taken me so long? (OK I know... I'm slow) It amazes me now, as I am getting older, that what seemed old and outdated to me as a kid growing up is now so appealing! When I saw those cartoon character Beatniks I thought they were an era of people who had well and truly passed. Like dinosaurs they must now be extinct... No way. Some of these guys are still with us and just as relevant as they were back then...

pink flower

For a Stone Girl at Sanchi

half asleep on the cold grass
       night rain flicking the maples
under a black bowl upside-down
on a flat land
       on a wobbling speck
smaller than stars,
the size of a seed,
       hollow as bird skulls.
light flies across it
              –never is seen.

a big rock weatherd funny,
old tree trunks turnd stone,
       split rocks and find clams.
                all that time
two flesh persons changing,
       clung to, doorframes
       notions, spear-hafts
in a rubble of years.
this dream pops. it was real:
       and it lasted forever.

                         Gary Snyder

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