Mark Gonnerman

Mark Gonnerman

Gonnerman, Mark


                               Mark Gonnerman CV.pdf


 Prof. Gonnerman is now director of the William James Center for Consciousness Studies at Sofia University. He served as Research Fellow at Stanford Center for Buddhist Studies from 2010-2011.

 His main contribution to Gary Snyder Studies is that he organized a yearlong research workshop on Mountains and Rivers Without End at the Stanford Humanities Center in 1997–1998. Scholarly contributions to the workshop, an interview with Gary Snyder, and resources for further study have been published as A Sense of the Whole: Reading Gary Snyder’s Mountains and Rivers Without End (Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2015).

 Prof. Gonnerman received his MA from Harvard University, and PhD from Stanford University, where he was a Lieberman Fellow.

Main Works

A Sense of the Whole: Reading Gary Snyder’s Mountains and Rivers Without End (2015)

“Tillich, Paul,” Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion (2014)

“Mark Gonnerman: Dharma Activist” in Mark Massé, Inspired to Serve: Today’s Faith Activists (2004)

“’On the Path, Off the Trail’: Gary Snyder’s Education and the Makings of American Zen” (PhD Dissertation, Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University, 2004)


Title: After Fukushima: Gary Snyder’s “The Market,” Equivalence, and an Ecopoetic Imperative

Abstract: While reading Jean-Luc Nancy’s After Fukushima: The Equivalence of Catastrophes (2012; English translation, 2015), Gary Snyder’s “The Market” (1964), set at the start of Part II of Mountains and Rivers Without End (1996), comes to mind. Both the philosopher and the poet are curious about equivalence and various metaphysical and ethical questions this notion raises.

      Nancy does not intend that all catastrophes are equivalent with regard to the havoc they wreak. Some (Bhopal, Chernobyl, Deepwater Horizon, Fukushima) are clearly worse than others, and even outstrip our symbolic resources. Rather, he is interested in the emerging complexity of interdependent ecological, economic, techno-scientific, and cultural systems as well as how catastrophic situations are enmeshed in what Marx calls the “general equivalent” of money capital that “henceforth [after Fukushima] virtually absorbs, well beyond the monetary or financial sphere but thanks to it and with regard to it, all the spheres of existence of humans, and along with them all things that exist.” In other words, we have entered a world where everything is now valued (almost exclusively) in terms of monetary worth. Everything!

      Snyder’s “The Market” spans the years 1890–1962 and begins with a reference to the Crystal Palace in San Francisco (1923–59), the public market that provided food and other goods from at least thirty-seven different countries. The poet then takes us to markets in Seattle, Saigon, Kathmandu, and Varanasi, a degenerative journey into horrendous confusion. In Kathmandu, the poet’s disorientation leads him to wonder how to calculate equivalences when, for example, we consider “… five cartons greek olives = hitchhiking/ from Ogden Utah to Burns Oregon / = aspirin, iodine and bandages = a lay in Naples = beef/ = lamb ribs = Patna / long grain rice, eight pounds/ equals two kilogram soybeans = a boxwood / geisha comb/ equals the whole family at the movies”? The final scene in Varanasi—a poetic rendition of a 15 February 1962 journal entry on the “samadhi of misery”—reminds the reader that the market does not respond to beings who have needs but lack resources.

      Both Nancy and Snyder are concerned about ways human and other beings once recognized as incommensurable and thus valuable in their singularity are increasingly subject to the leveling effects of abstract market forces acting beyond our ken while relentlessly reshaping our worlds.  What is to be done in a time when, as Nancy observes, “there are no natural catastrophes: There is only a civilizational catastrophe that expands every time”? Interestingly, Snyder and Nancy both recommend the act of stepping back and into the present moment as, quoting Lew Welch, “the whole huge machinery rolls by, not seeing you at all.”

      Current market conditions bring forth an ecopoetic imperative to attend to particularities in a manner that accentuates the dialectical interplay of part/whole relationships both within and without the work of art. This, I believe, is well illustrated by Gary Snyder’s poem, “Mu Ch’i’s Persimmons” (2008), and I conclude with attention to this.