Snyder was born in San Francisco, and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and his earliest experiences there in the natural and wild worlds imprint his work and thought to this day. He graduated from Reed College with a degree in literature and anthropology, and he was instrumental–with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac–in the Beat Generation/San Francisco movements of the late 1950s.
For most of the 1960s he lived in Japan and studied formally in a Zen monastery, and the influence of Zen Buddhism continues as a powerful implicit and explicit influence in his thought. In 1970, he returned to the United States, taking up residence–with his wife and two young sons–in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California.
Since 1970, his work has taken on a distinctly ecological edge. His move to the former “Gold Country” galvanized an interest in the unique character of a wild place, particularly in a region ravaged by hydraulic gold mining in the late 1880s. He has been a leading spokesperson for “reinhabitation”–both in public and through his literary work–for the possibilities and necessities of recreating an organic relationship with a natural bioregion.
Gary Snyder has published eighteen books, translated into more than twenty languages. Among the numerous prizes and awards for his work are: The John Hay Award for Nature Writing, 1997 The Bollingen Prize for Poetry, 1997 Featured Poet in Bill Moyers’ “The Language of Life” PBS video special series, 1995 American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1993 American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1987 The Best American Poetry 1988 and 1989 Fred S. Cody Memorial Award, 1989 American Poetry Society Shelley Memorial Award, 1986 Pullitzer Prize for Poetry, 1975 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, 1969-70 Bollingen Foundation Fellow, 1966-69