Digital Muse for Beat Poet
Days before Steven P. Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, introduces his Next Big Thing (the consensus holds it will be a sleek tablet computer), I called up Gary Snyder, the Beat-era poet who writes about the American wilderness.
Now, Mr. Snyder might not seem the best person to ask to reflect on the milestones of the digital age. He is 79 and lives in the Sierra foothills in Northern California. But his world and that of the early personal computer makers, like Mr. Jobs, overlapped, in both time and space.
He has a nuanced understanding of computers. He is a devoted Macintosh user, though he said he wrote with whatever was at hand. And while everyone in Silicon Valley is on the edge of their seat waiting for Apple’s introduction on Wednesday of its newest “creation,” Mr. Snyder is taking a wait-and-see attitude.
Word of an Apple book replacement had not yet reached him in the California backcountry where he lives without electricity. He almost never uses a cellphone and has no use for BlackBerrys. He considers texting “abhorrent.”
But Mr. Snyder said he liked his laptop. “I like the storage space it has,” he said, “and I like the ability to have back files accessible to me wherever I go.”
In a poem, unpublished and reprinted below with Mr. Snyder’s permission, he breathes life into his computer, something that many of us tend to do with the machines that increasingly consume our lives.
Personal computers, Mr. Snyder said, feel like sentient beings. Next week, Mr. Jobs may be preparing to offer his most sentient Macintosh yet.
Why I Take Good Care of My Macintosh
By Gary Snyder
Because it broods under its hood like a perched falcon,
Because it jumps like a skittish horse and sometimes throws me,
Because it is poky when cold,
Because plastic is a sad, strong material that is charming to rodents,
Because it is flighty,
Because my mind flies into it through my fingers,
Because it leaps forward and backward, is an endless sniffer and searcher,
Because its keys click like hail on a boulder,
And it winks when it goes out,
And puts word-heaps in hoards for me, dozens of pockets of gold under boulders in streambeds, identical seedpods strong on a vine, or it stores bins of bolts;
And I lose them and find them,
Because whole worlds of writing can be boldly laid out and then highlighted and vanish in a flash at “delete,” so it teaches of impermanence and pain;
And because my computer and me are both brief in this world, both foolish, and we have earthly fates,
Because I have let it move in with me right inside the tent,
And it goes with me out every morning;
We fill up our baskets, get back home,
Feel rich, relax, I throw it a scrap and it hums.
Copyright Gary Snyder, used by permission
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Tech Reflections - Digital Muse for Beat Poet - NYTimes.com