Gary Sherman Snyder is a well-known poet, author, educator, travel writer, translator, and environmental activist from the United States. He was born and raised in California, and his family endured hardships during the Great Depression when he was a child. He attended Reed College, where he acquired an interest in poetry and had some of his earliest poems published. He later enrolled at Indiana University, but dropped out halfway through to pursue his passion for poetry in San Francisco. He worked as a timber scaler and was responsible for keeping an eye out for fires, loggers, and other hazards in the highlands. After that, he studied Asian culture and languages at the University of California. He travelled to Japan for a year after graduating to study Zen under Miura Isshu. He finally became his disciple and studied koan, ancient writings, Japanese language, and other topics under him, as well as living a monastic life for a time. Snyder wrote various poetry books and articles based on his experiences from a variety of occupations, studies, and trips. For one of his novels, he received the coveted Pulitzer Prize, and he continues to teach at the University of California.
Childhood and Adolescenc
Gary Snyder was born on May 8, 1930, to Harold and Lois Hennessy Snyder in San Francisco, California. His family was severely impacted by the Great Depression, and they relocated to Washington in order to make a life.
Snyder has been a voracious reader since he was a child. He was involved in an accident when he was seven years old, and he was bedridden for four months, during which time he read voraciously. At the age of 17, he relocated to Oregon.
Snyder’s parents split in 1942, and he moved to Portland with his mother and sister. His mother worked for The Oregonian as a reporter. He worked as a paper boy and a camp counselor while attending Lincoln High School.
He was accepted to Reed College on a scholarship in 1947. He made a lot of literary friends while he was there, including Lew Welch, Philip Whalen, Carl Proujan, and others. During this time, he released his first collection of poems.
He began working as a seaman in 1948, and in order to do so, he had to join the Marine Cooks and Stewards union. Working as a seaman allowed Snyder to have a better understanding of foreign cultures, something he’d been interested in since he was ten years old.
Snyder earned a double major in anthropology and literature from Reed College in 1951. After college, he went to work as a timber scaler in Warm Springs. Following that, he enrolled at Indiana University.
He dropped out after the first semester because he wanted to return to San Francisco and pursue a career as a poet. For a few months, he worked as a fire lookout in Washington before returning to Warm Springs.
Career of Gary Snyder
Snyder opted to enroll in the University of California, Berkeley, to study Asian languages and culture in 1953. He spent the balance of his time here studying poetry and traditional culture and working part-time.
He was granted a year-long scholarship to study Zen in Japan in 1955, but he was denied a passport because he was suspected of being a “communist.” However, due to policy changes, he was able to travel to Japan.
He began his career in Japan as an English tutor and personal attendant to Miura Isshu in Kyoto’s Shokoku-ji. He began attending Japanese classes in order to study koan. In 1955, he became Miura’s pupil and converted to Buddhism.
In 1958, he returned to the United States and worked as a crewman on the ship ‘Sappa Creek.’ In 1959, he returned to Japan and became Roshi’s first foreign pupil, learning Zen for the next 11 years.
He worked on translations with Sasaki and stayed on the island of Suwanosejima with a group of other disciples from 1958 until 1969. While living the life of a monk, he worked professionally in Japan.
His poems was published in ‘Myths & Texts’ and ‘Six Sections from Mountains and Rivers Without End’ around this period. His poems reflected the experiences he had gathered while working as a scaler, logger, translator, and other jobs.
sIn 1967, he published ‘The Back Country,’ a compilation of his poetry that served as a culmination of the last 15 years of his life, his travels across Japan and America, and his encounters with indigenous cultures.
In 1969, the book ‘Regarding Wave’ was released, which comprised Snyder’s more passionate and romantic poems. Compared to his previous work, these poems were more lyrical and rhythmic.
‘Earth House Hold,’ ‘The Old Ways,’ ‘The Real Work,’ ‘The Practice of the Wild,’ ‘A Place in Space,’ ‘The Gary Snyder Reader,’ and ‘He Who Hunted Birds in His Father’s Village: The Dimensions of a Haida Myth’ were among Snyder’s many works released between 1969 and 1999.
Snyder’s latest collection of poetry, ‘Danger on the Peaks,’ was published in the 2000s, and John J. Healy filmed a documentary about his life called ‘The Practice of the Wild.’ On the big screen, the movie was designed to honor his life.
‘Axe Handles,’ ‘Left Out in the Rain,’ ‘Passage Through India,’ ‘The High Sierra of California,’ ‘Back on Fire: Essays,’ ‘Tamalpais Walking,’ ‘The Etiquette of Freedom,’ ‘The Back Country,’ ‘Turtle Island,’ and others are among his other works.
Achievements & Awards
His book ‘Turtle Island’ earned the Pulitzer Prize in 1974. The book was called after a Native American word for the North American continent, and it mirrored his encounters with the country’s indigenous culture.
Personal History and Legacy
Snyder married Alison Gass in 1950, but the couple split after only seven months. For the next eight years of his life, he remained unmarried.
He met poet Joanne Kyger in 1958 while traveling back and forth from Japan, and they married in 1960 after his Zen master insisted that they get married if they were to live together.
He married Masa Uehara, a woman he met in Osaka, in 1967. After marrying, they went to California and produced two kids together, Kai and Gen. He divorced Masha Uehara after 22 years and married Carole Lynn Koda.
Estimated Net Worth
Gary is one of the wealthiest poets and one of the most well-known. Gary Snyder’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.
The Levinson Prize, the American Poetry Society Shelley Memorial Award, the Bollingen Prize, the John Hay Award, and the Buddhism Transmission Award have all been bestowed upon him.
Carole, his wife, is the author of the book “Homegrown: Thirteen Brothers and Sisters, a Century in America.”
Lawrence Ferlinghetti dubbed him the “Thoreau of the Beat Generation.”