Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Prof. Gary Snyder, English, University of California at Davis, received a standing ovation after his lecture Wednesday evening where he discussed his work’s relationship to environmental conservation.
Describing his own works, Snyder said he strives “to hold both history and wilderness in mind” and for his poems to “approach the true measure of things and stand against the unbalance and ignorance of our times,” according to the event program.
Many of Snyder’s works aim to instill an “ecological consciousness in the reader” and to reflect “a concern for the environment and the plight of the American Indian as well as insights engendered by his role as a husband, father and steward of the land,” according to The Poetry Foundation.
Snyder said he intended to use his translations of Eastern Asian works and his own work “to weave together a picture … of understanding how we keep on living and working on this planet.”
According to the event’s program, Snyder is a “founding member of the Beat Generation” — a cultural and literary movement that explored and influenced American culture post-World War II — and is deeply involved in environmental conservation
Snyder’s extensive involvement in environmental activism includes holding a position as a Forest Service Fire Lookout. He has lived in the watershed of the South Yuba River since 1970, the event program said.
“One of the things that comes to you out in the countryside is the other history — the older history,” he said in the midst of reciting nature poetry. “Not the immediate human history, but your perceptions of longer presences and longer changes that have taken place in the landscape.”
Snyder also shared his experience of traveling to countries with different ideological perspectives.
“What I find out when I go to Korea or Asia is… that if you live a mile beyond the last bus stop of the bus system… you’re a hermit,” he said. “The respect is for somebody who has a vision of their own and stays with their own vision, and is able to break away from being 100 percent, totally social.”
The lecture was the Cornell Plantations William and Jane Torrence Harder 20th Anniversary Lecture. Snyder received the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 and was a National Book Award finalist in 1992, according to the event program.