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Gary Snyder (Gary Sherman Snyder) Biography

(1930– ), (Gary Sherman Snyder), The Dharma Bums, Riprap, and Cold Mountain Poems

American poet, born in San Francisco, educated at Reed College, Portland, and the University of California, Berkeley, from 1953 to 1956, the period of his association with various writers of the Best Generation; Jack Kerouac's portrayal of him as ‘Japhy Ryder’ in The Dharma Bums (1958) makes clear the central importance of Zen Buddhism to Snyder, who spent eight years in Japan as a student of Zen between 1956 and 1968. In 1985 he became Professor of English at the University of California, Davis. The remarkable immediacy, clarity, and economy with which Snyder's poetry evokes landscapes and natural phenomena was fully apparent in his first major collection, Riprap, and Cold Mountain Poems (1965). While Snyder's disciplined free verse and acute use of detail relate to the modern tradition of Imagism, his Buddhist belief in the sacredness of physical actuality forms an aesthetic principle underlying the precision of his work's perceptual notations. His subsequent collections include Six Sections from Mountains and Rivers without End (1965, enlarged edition 1970), offering extracts from a major sequence upon which he continues to work, The Back Country (1967), Regarding Wave (1970), and Manzanita (1972). The urgency of his concern for the natural environment and his fears for a human culture that ‘alienates itself from the very ground of its own being’ are forcefully conveyed in the verse and prose of Turtle Island (1974), which received a Pulitzer Prize. Axe Handles (1983) is rich in the celebratory treatments of work, family life, and other aspects of everyday experience which recur in his writing. Left out in the Rain (1986) contains over 200 hitherto uncollected poems written from 1947 onward. No Nature: New and Selected Poems appeared in 1993. Among Snyder's prose works, which sustain the ecological and spiritual themes of his verse, are Earth House Hold (1969), The Old Ways (1977), and The Practice of the Wild (1990); Scott McLean edited The Real Work (1980), a collection of Snyder's interviews and talks. See also San Francisco Renaissance.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Lemn Sissay Biography to Southwold Suffolk