Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder has said, “I hold the most archaic values on earth,” extending even to the Paleolithic. His work is informed by his studies in Zen Buddhism and Asian languages, as well as a deep, earned knowledge of the natural world. While living in Japan for 12 years, he worked as a translator of Zen texts, also traveling and writing prolifically, working to see past the ignorance and unbalance prevalent in our dealings with the life around us and to divine the true nature of his subjects rather than give them his own meanings. His words ring and resonate with an understanding of the things around him, revealing to the reader truths which seem to have been evident all along.

In his first volume, Riprap, published in 1959, Snyder describes his works: “These poems, people,/lost ponies with/Dragging saddles/and rocky sure-foot trails.” The poet creates a verbal riprap, rock path by which we may cross with him the infinite terrains of ecology and human experience. His career, as Glyn Maxwell noted, “has been a remarkable combination of the academic and the contemplative, spiritual study and physical labor.” Snyder has been likened by some to a modern-day Henry David Thoreau, and the poet Edward Hirsch has called him “the most intimate and mindful of poets.”

Snyder’s honors include many for poetry, as well as for ecological literature. He has been awarded the Bollingen Poetry Prize, the Orion Society’s John Hay Award for Nature Writing, and a Pulitzer Prize for Turtle Island in 1975. He was also the first American literary figure to receive the Buddhist Transmission Award, for distinctive contributions in linking Zen thought and respect for the natural world across a lifelong body of poetry and prose. Snyder currently teaches at the University of California at Davis, where he lectures on literature and ecology.


Poems by Gary Snyder


We Wash Our Bowls in This Water

Excerpt of “Four Poems for Robin”


Song of the Taste
(Available as a broadside.)






Poetry Center Reading:

Spring 2006