Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Although he was born in San Francisco, Gary Snyder moved to the Pacific Northwest before he was two, and he spent his youth and college years there. His parents, Harold and Lois Snyder, eked out a living on small family farms, first near Seattle, then near Portland. Snyder and his sister, Thea, enjoyed the plants and animals of these rural areas and learned the challenges and satisfactions of hard physical work. Snyder also traces his political orientation through family roots: His grandfather was a labor organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World, and Snyder often cites their motto of “forming the new society within the shell of the old”—of developing a healthy alternative culture rather than seeking to confront and destroy outmoded institutions.
During his high school years, and through college and several years after, Snyder worked at a variety of jobs. Some were cerebral (such as jobs in journalism, radio programming, and teaching), but more often they involved manual labor and craftsmanship in the outdoors—aspects of a lifestyle that Snyder has continued to embrace even after he could have supported himself solely as a writer. This physical work in his youth involved jobs as a ranger and fire lookout, logger, trail crew worker, and seaman. Snyder was refused reemployment as a lookout in 1954 as a result of his involvement with social and...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
As an American cultural figure, Snyder has gained the stature of a modern Thoreau while going beyond Thoreau’s isolation to live as a wise elder, a sage whose affable, accessible, and inspirational qualities have not diminished the hard intelligence and rigorous poetic practice of his working life. He leads an exemplary life in accord with both the practical counsel and the visionary ideals that his writings express so eloquently. Snyder’s place in the canon of great American poets is more problematic, primarily because some critics contend that much of his later poetry is more polemical or more relaxed than the most highly praised poems of his early career. Few would dispute, however, that Snyder’s poetic voice often speaks with clarity, humor, and wisdom. Many would go further to insist that his poetry is powerful enough to transform the consciousness of those who read it, creating a shared vision that represents humanity’s best chance to preserve the earth for future generations.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Gary Sherman Snyder was born in San Francisco in 1930, the son of Harold Alton Snyder and Lois Wilkie Snyder. His parents moved back to their native Pacific Northwest in 1932, where they settled on a dairy farm near Puget Sound in Washington. Snyder’s mother moved to Portland, Oregon, to work as a newspaper-woman when Snyder was twelve, and she reared Snyder and his younger sister Anthea as a single parent, insisting that Snyder commute downtown to attend Lincoln High, the most intellectually demanding school in the Portland system.
In 1947, he received a scholarship to Reed College, where he devised a unique major in anthropology and literature. Early in his college years, he joined the Mazamas and the Wilderness Society, both outdoors groups, and took up backcountry hiking and skiing and snow-peak mountaineering. His first poems were published in the Reed College literary magazine. He lived in an old house shared by a dozen other students similarly interested in art and politics, including the poets Philip Whalen and Lew Welch, who became his close friends. Snyder wrote for The Oregonian newspaper at night and spent the summer of 1950 on an archaeological dig at old Fort Vancouver in Washington. At about that time, he was briefly married to Allison Gass, a fellow student.
Upon graduation from Reed, Snyder completed one semester of graduate studies in linguistics at Indiana University before transferring to the University of...
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Gary Snyder was born in 1930 to Lois Snyder Hennessy, a creative writing student from the University of Washington, and Harold Snyder, an unemployed automobile salesman. From age two to twelve, he lived on his parents’ two-acre logged-over farm north of Seattle. At ten he began delivering milk to neighbors, his hands blue with cold during the winters. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, his father accepted a position in Portland, Oregon, with the U.S. Civil Service Commission.
Snyder earned his first sleeping bag by getting subscriptions for a Portland newspaper. His clothes came from Goodwill. After high school he worked at KEX radio and as a music librarian’s office boy and later as a copy boy for United Press. Despite his poverty, he was admitted to Reed College, Oregon’s best private school, where he developed sympathies for anarchist ideas and radical politics while working for a bachelor’s degree in literature and anthropology. At Reed he became part of a bohemian group that included poets Philip Whalen and Lew Welch, both of whom would follow him to San Francisco in the early 1950’s. Snyder earned his meals by washing dishes and his new clothes by working as a copy boy. His professors at Reed praised his poetry, and visiting poet William Carlos Williams also singled out his work.
Graduated from Reed at age nineteen in...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Poet, translator, essayist, and educator Gary Sherman Snyder grew up in the state of Washington and later moved to Portland, Oregon, where he gained an appreciation for the wilderness and mountain trails that became interests dominating his future writings. In 1947 he attended Reed College, studying literature and anthropology with a special interest in Native American myth. At Reed he gained a lifelong interest in Chinese calligraphy and began a lifelong friendship with fellow Buddhist poet Philip Whalen. He pursued graduate work at Indiana University, then studied classical Chinese at the University of California at Berkeley.
In the mid-1950’s he became associated with poets Kenneth Rexroth, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and especially Jack Kerouac. These were all central figures in the “San Francisco renaissance” poetry movement, of which Snyder would later be described as the pivotal “renaissance man.” During this period he participated in the historic 1955 Six Gallery poetry reading that launched the Beat Generation, translated the “Cold Mountain Poems” by Zen poet Han-Shan, and climbed the Matterhorn with Kerouac. Kerouac wrote of their experiences in his autobiographical novel The Dharma Bums (1958), in which Snyder is fictionalized as the central character, Japhy Ryder.
During the 1960’s, Snyder lived...
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Born on May 8, 1930 in San Francisco, Gary Snyder was the elder of two children. Hard hit by the Depression, his impoverished family relocated to farmland north of Seattle soon after Snyder’s birth. In 1942, they moved again to Portland, Oregon, where Snyder finished high school. However, from his first days in the Pacific Northwest, Snyder was drawn instinctively to the wonder of wilderness. He was later to recount that all he knew of nature had come immediately from nature herself.
Granted a full scholarship, Snyder entered Portland’s Reed College in 1947. With a senior thesis on the role of mythmaking in the culture of the Haida, a Pacific Northwest native tribe, Snyder graduated in 1951 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in both anthropology and literature. Nevertheless, Snyder’s interest in mythopoesis was not merely academic. Upon completing his honor’s thesis, he began creating the poems that would finally constitute Myths & Texts, finally published in 1960.
After a semester as a graduate student of anthropology at Indiana University, Snyder decided to return to San Francisco to study East Asian languages and literature. He supported himself with various jobs cutting timber, digging hiking trails, and standing watch for forest fires in isolated watchtowers in the northern Cascades. In San Francisco, he also made the acquaintance of two recent migrants from the East Coast, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, two writers who...
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Gary Snyder was born in San Francisco in 1930. His parents separated when he was very young, and he spent most of his early years living with his mother and sister on small farms in Washington and Oregon. Even as a youngster and teenager, Snyder was an avid outdoorsman and developed a strong reverence for all things natural— mammals, insects, trees, mountains, rivers, and anything else that was a part of the earth. He also held ancient North American and Far Eastern cultures in high regard and would eventually make their study and practice a part of his everyday life.
In 1951, he received degrees in both literature and anthropology from Reed College in Portland, Oregon. There, he became a part of the intellectual crowd that was often also the "party" crowd, and he and his friends experimented not only with a variety of hallucinogenic drugs and alcohol, but also with eastern philosophy, Indian mythology, and communal living. He spent most of his college years in one of the "Reed houses," which were typically old houses close to campus that students rented, sharing in the household duties and monthly utility bills. Snyder had a preference for a home life that was village-like, similar to most Native American cultures in which all members were part of an extended family, and group effort and shared responsibilities—as opposed to individual achievement—were major tenets.
Snyder's interest in Zen Buddhism was heightened by three years of...
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