It's said that Nanao Sakaki made a practice of never sleeping in the same place twice. The Japanese poet worked many jobs, sometimes living off the generosity of neighbors while studying English and reading. He became interested in primitive art, and his visits to forests all over Japan inspired him to start writing poems. When he co-translated his book Bellyfulls into English in 1961, Sakaki became friends with Beat poet Gary Snyder, who sought him out after having been given the book in India. Sakaki was also founder and lead personality of the Tribe, a loose-knit countercultural group in Japan in the '60s and '70s that, among other things, built and inhabited the Banyan Ashram on tiny Suwanosejima, one of the Ryukyu Islands (and one of Japan's most active volcanoes).
He spent nearly 10 years in the U.S., mostly in San Francisco but also wandering by foot. A pivotal nexus between Buddhism and the Beat movement, the publication of Sakaki's first collection of poems will be celebrated with tributes and performances by major writers Snyder, Michael McClure, Joanne Kyger, and Gary Lawless, along with author and Heydey Books guru Malcolm Margolin and host Patricia Wakida.
A Celebration of Nanao Sakaki starts at 7 p.m. on Friday May 10, at McRoskey Mattress Company, 1687 Market, S.F. Admission is $5-10; call (415) 338-2227 or visit sfsu.edu/~poetry/index.html.