The Grandmaster Returns

Poet Gary Snyder ’51 at his home near Nevada City, California.
Dan Chung/Guardian News & Media Ltd

Reunions 2011 will feature poet Gary Snyder ’51.

By John Daniel ’70
Gary Snyder

Awl powerful: Gary ca. 1960.

Yes, it’s official. Pulitzer-prizewinning poet Gary Snyder ’51 is returning to campus to be the keynote speaker for Centennial Reunions.

If Reed College in a hundred years had helped to form no other notable graduate, Gary alone would have been contribution enough to American and international culture. From Reed, he went on to become, very quickly, one of the few truly defining literary voices of the second half of the twentieth century and now the twenty-first. His intent from the beginning was not to make sonorous verses but to write usefully, in ways that serve human knowing and living. He describes poetry as “a tool, a net or trap to catch the present; a sharp edge; a medicine, or the little awl that unties knots.”

With a scholar’s rigor, a lover’s passion, the heart of a bear, and the wise humor of a Bodhisattva, he has taken Asian and Native American traditions into his experience of the working Northwest to imagine how we might belong to the North American land and not just exist on it. Along the way, he has practiced his values as thoroughly and honestly as he has written them. In creating a new poetics to transmit ancient teaching, Gary Snyder exemplifies the spirit and ideals of Reed College. For many of us who came of age in the 1960s, as well as for thousands more, he is the grandfather of the tribe.

Gary will speak at Reed on Friday, June 10. For more details, see