| The Heath Anthology of
American Literature, Fifth Edition
Gary Snyder has said that his work “has been driven
by the insight that all is connected and interdependent—nature, societies;
rocks, stars.” Growing up on a small farm north of Seattle, Washington, he was
devoted to hiking and camping. At Reed College he wrote poetry, majored in
literature and anthropology, read Chinese and Indian Buddhist philosophy, and
prepared a thesis on a Native American myth of the Northwest coast. After
studying linguistics and anthropology for a term at Indiana University, he
broke off his academic career—ending also the marriage with Alison Gass that
had begun at Reed—and went to San Francisco. He spent two summers as a
forest-fire lookout—at Crater Mountain and Sourdough Mountain—and then entered
the University of California in 1953 as a student of Oriental languages, preparing
himself to go to Asia.
American West and ancient China came together in his translations from “Cold
Mountain,” by the Zen hermit Han Shan. In 1955, having met Kenneth Rexroth,
Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg, he took part in the poetry reading at the Six
Gallery that launched the “San Francisco Renaissance.” A lively if rather
superficial portrait of him, as Japhy Ryder, is central to Kerouac’s novel The
1956 Snyder went to Japan, where he learned Japanese and studied Zen Buddhism
with Miura Isshu. Over the next twelve years he spent much time there,
continuing his studies with Oda Sesso. He also had brief interludes of work in
a ship’s engine-room, travel through India with Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky,
teaching at Berkeley, and reading his poetry on American college campuses. From
1960 to 1965 he was married to Joanne Kyger. In 1967, while living at Banyan
Ashram on Suwa-No-Se Island off the coast of Kyushu, Japan, he married Masa
Uehara. After their son Kai was born the following year, the family came to the
United States, where a second son, Gen, was born in 1969. In 1971 Snyder built
a home in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains in California, where the family
lived together for many years. In 1988, Snyder and Masa Uehara separated, and
he was joined at “Kitkitdizze” by Carole Korda, whom he married in 1991.
the last two decades—in poetry, prose, political action, and personal
example—Snyder has been an advocate for ecological awareness. With Earth House
Hold and Turtle Island (awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1975) his
vision of cosmic interdependence or community assumed forceful and
comprehensive literary form. Since 1985 he has been teaching at the University
of California at Davis.
poetry recovers values important to Thoreau and Whitman but does so in ways
that have been influenced by the darker perspective of Robinson Jeffers, the
pan-sexuality of D. H. Lawrence, the imagist discipline of Ezra Pound and
William Carlos Williams, related disciplines in Japanese and Chinese poetry,
the structural use of myth in the long poem from The Waste Land to Paterson and
The Maximus Poems, the sound-shaping and shamanism in oral poetry, and the
analytical insights of depth psychology, anthropology, and biology. All this is
grounded in the serious practice of Zen. The poetics of Riprap is a craft of
placing verbal details to make a path for the attention. That of the early
Myths & Texts and of Mountains and Rivers Without End, a text composed over
a forty-year period, involves the counterpointing of personal experience,
meditation, exploration of myth, and song. In Regarding Wave his attention
turned more sharply to words—their sounds, etymologies, proliferating
meanings—as offering a field of generative energies like those that shape the
cosmos itself. With urgency and detachment, seriousness and humor, Snyder
continues as poet and essayist to explore the primal activities through which
we participate in the “Great Family” whose habitation is Mind.
Thomas R. Whitaker|
In the Heath Anthology
It Was When
Myths & Texts
Riprap, and Cold Mountain Poems
A Range of Poems
The Back Country
Earth House Hold: Technical Notes & Queries to Fellow Dharma Revolutionaries
Turtle Island (poems and prose)
The Old Ways: Six Essays
He Who Haunted Birds in His Father's Village: Dimensions of a Haida Myth
The Real Work: Interviews & Talks, 1964-1979
Passage Through India (prose)
Left Out in the Rain: New Poems, 1947-1985
The Practice of the Wild: Essays
A Place in Space: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Watersheds: New and Selected Prose
Mountains and Rivers Without End
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"Gary Snyder - basic materials for the counterculture"
This site provides an excerpt from David Burner's Making Peace with the Sixties.
A hypertext biography.
Modern American Poetry
A chronology/biography, criticism, and a bibliography.
An audio file of a conversation between Snyder, Alan Watts, Timothy Leary, and Allen Ginsberg about spiritual change.
Tim Dean, Gary Snyder and the American Unconscious: Inhabiting the Ground, 1991
Jon Halper, ed., Gary Snyder: Dimensions of a Life, 1991
Charles Molesworth, Gary Snyder's Vision: Poetry and the Real Work, 1983
Patrick D. Murphy, ed., Critical Essays on Gary Snyder, 1990
Patrick D. Murphy, A Place for Wayfaring: The Poetry and Prose of Gary Snyder, 2000
Sherman Paul, In Search of the Primitive: Rereading David Antin, Jerome Rothenberg, and Gary Snyder, 1986
Bob Steuding, Gary Snyder, 1976