Gary Snyder Additional Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

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 California, Berkeley, to study Asian languages. During the summers of the years he pursued graduate work, he took a job first as a fire-watcher in the Cascade mountains and later, after he was fired in the McCarthy-era hysteria of 1954, as a choker-setter for the Warm Springs Lumber Company. Utilizing skills in woodcutting he had learned from his family and neighbors, Snyder “was often supporting himself” in his student years, and his first accomplished poems were related to these experiences as well as to his work on a trail crew in Yosemite in 1955.

That fall, Snyder met Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and became involved in the exploding art scene in San Francisco, where he took part in the historic Six Gallery reading where Ginsberg read “Howl” in public for the first time. Snyder followed this extraordinary performance with his own poetry in a very different vein and was also successful in capturing the attention of the audience. He and Kerouac shared a cabin in Mill Valley, California, through that winter and spring, and then Snyder traveled to Kyoto, Japan, to take up residence in a...

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(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

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...

(The entire section is 589 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical 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,...

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(Poetry for Students)

Born on May 8, 1930 in San Francisco, Gary Snyder was the elder of two children. Hard hit by the Depression, his impoverished family...

(The entire section is 655 words.)


(Poetry for Students)

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...

(The entire section is 500 words.)