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Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, March 1, 2000

File photo
Albert Saijo, whose road trips with Jack Kerouac are
documented in the Beat author's "Dharma Bums," will
be one of three poets sharing their work tomorrow
at the University of Hawai'i.

Wanderers find poetry
in the environment

By Burl Burlingame


They're three graybeard poets whose work hardly ever rhymes, but get them in a room together and the words just fly. "Three Transpacific Wanderers," a reading featuring Gary Snyder, Nanao Sakaki and Albert Saijo, takes place at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at the University of Hawaii art auditorium.

Admission is free, courtesy Bamboo Ridge Press, the State Foundation of Culture and the Arts and the University of Hawaii at Manoa Outreach College.


By Nanao Sakaki

In the morning
After taking cold shower
-- What a mistake --
I look at the mirror.

There, a funny guy
Grey hair, white beard, wrinkled skin
-- What a pity --
Poor, dirty, old man!
He is not me, absolutely not.

Land and life
Fishing in the ocean
Sleeping in the desert with stars
Building a shelter in the mountains
Farming the ancient way
Singing with coyotes
Singing against nuclear war --
I'll never be tired of life.
Now I'm seventeen years old,
Very charming young man.

I sit down quietly in lotus position,
Meditating, meditating for nothing.
Suddenly a voice comes to me:

"To stay young,
To save the world,
Break the mirror."

All three poets have known each other -- or known about each other -- for nearly 40 years and have shared interests in ecology, the environment and Buddhism.

"Albert and Nanao just met for the first time three days ago," chuckled Snyder. "As I thought, there Info Boxwas a commonality there of spirit, of poetic freedom, a broad sense of the Pacific Rim."

Snyder won a Pulitzer Prize in 1975 for his work "Turtle Island," has worked as a homesteader in the Sierra Nevadas and as a translator of Zen texts in Japan. He is on the faculty of the University of California at Davis, and helped create the school's "Nature and Culture" program.

One of the few Japanese working in radar during World War II, Sakaki deliberately became a world wanderer and storyteller in the post-war world. Of Sakaki, "Nature" magazine said "clear as creekwater and rich in natural wisdom, Sakaki's poetry reads like medicine." An example accompanies this story.

Albert Saijo met Jack Kerouac in San Francisco's Chinatown during the '50s, and among other projects, collaborated on an epic haiku recounting a road trip. Currently a Big Island resident, Saijo is published by Bamboo Ridge.

"From the Rocky Mountains to the coasts of Korea, that's our territory," said Snyder. "We all have a history of backpacking, of mountaineering and hitchhiking."

As American writers discovered the effects of zen thinking in the '50s, their paths crossed. Snyder helped introduce Kerouac and Allan Ginsberg to Buddhism.

"We also have a deep respect for indigenous peoples, and a certain mystical streak, and certainly a libertarian streak, a maverick spiritualism," said Snyder. "Na-nao was organizing protests in Japan against stripping virgin forests in 1953, before anyone knew what a 'virgin forest' was."

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