Yale Awards Bollingen Poetry Prize to Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder has been awarded the Bollingen Prize in Poetry of the Yale University Library, one of the nation’s most prestigious literary honors. The $50,000 prize was announced January 27 by Scott Bennett, librarian of the University.

The Bollingen Prize is awarded every two years to the living poet whose work represents the highest achievement in the field of American poetry. This year’s selection committee included the 1995 Bollingen winner, Kenneth Koch; Penelope Laurans, associate dean of Yale College; and J.D. McClatchey, editor of The Yale Review and widely-published poet. Both Ms. Laurans and Mr. McClatchey teach poetry at Yale.

In making their selection, the committee said, “Gary Snyder, throughout a long and distinguished career, has been doing what he refers to in one poem as “the real work.” “The real work” is writing poetry, for Snyder an unprecedented kind of poetry, in which the most adventurous technique is put at the service of the great themes of nature and of love. He has brought together the physical life and the inward life of the spirit to write poetry as solid and yet as constantly changing as the mountains and rivers of his American, and universal, landscapes.”

Mr. Snyder was born in San Francisco in 1930 and graduated from Reed College with a degree in literature and anthropology. In the 1950s, he was associated with the Beat poets of San Francisco, and later lived in Japan and became interested in Zen Buddhism. Since 1970 he has lived with his family in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Northern California.

Among his books are “Riprap”, 1959, “Regarding Wave”, 1970, “Turtle Island”, 1974 – which won a Pulitzer Prize – “Axe Handles Poems”, 1983, “No Nature: New and Selected Poems”, 1992, and, most recently, “Mountains and Rivers without End”, 1996.

An excerpt from “Cross-Legg’d”

Cross-legg’d under the low tent roof, dim light, dinner done,

drinking tea. We live in dry old west

Lift shirts bare skin lean touch lips–

Old touches. Love made, poems, makyngs,

Always new, same stuff life after life.

In “Mountains and Rivers without End”, Counterpoint Press

Mr. Snyder joins a distinguished list of poets who have received the award since the Bollingen Prize was established in 1949. Previous winners include Wallace Stevens, John Crowe Ransom, Marianne Moore, Archibald MacLeish, William Carlos Williams, W.H. Auden, Robert Frost, Robert Penn Warren, James Merrill, May Swenson, and John Hollander.

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325