Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Happy birthday, poet Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder
It is the birthday of Beat-era poet Gary Snyder (1930), who won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1975 for his collection Turtle Island. The title is a Native American term for North America. Snyder's work reflects his interest in Native American culture, Buddhism, Japanese and Chinese culture, naturism and rural life. He grew up in the Northwest and became associated with the Beat Generation in San Francisco, where he met poet Kenneth Rexroth and participated in the famous Six Gallery poetry reading in 1955, which many scholars consider the beginning of the Beat movement in California and the beginning of the San Francisco artistic renaissance. Other young poets, Michael McClure, Philip Lamantia, Allen Ginsberg and Philip Whalen (a college roommate of Snyder), participated in the reading. Ginsberg read an early draft of his epic poem Howl and Jack Kerouac was in the large, enthusiastic audience. Snyder inspired the main character in Kerouac's novel The Dharma Bums. Snyder introduced Kerouac to life in the backcountry and rural living. Lawrence Ferlinghetti called Snyder the Thoreau of the Beat Generation. Snyder wrote more than 20 books of poetry. He studied in Japan and traveled extensively in the Far East.

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