Emeritus Professor Gary Snyder Wins Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovation

Poet Gary Snyder, professor emeritus of English, has won the 2017 UC Davis Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovation. This award recognizes career accomplishments that have led to a long-term positive impact on the lives of others. 


"Gary Snyder has spent his life trying to find language for the broad and all-too-often subterranean sense that we are living the wrong life," says Davis English professor and poet Joshua Clover, "that the way it has been organized elsewhere is ruinous to us, to our communities, and to the planet.... Sometimes this thinking takes the form of anger or deep melancholy, sometimes visionary engagements with possibility and with other traditions and the sense a better life might be nearby or underfoot, and always with an incomparable attention to the ecologies that persist despite our depredations."

Colin Milburn, English professor and Gary Snyder Chair in Science and the Humanities, explains that Snyder "has always shown us how to think across boundaries, understanding nature and culture as complexly entangled. His work represents a way of thinking that is essential for finding better ways to inhabit our planet, more responsible forms of living."
“Gary Snyder’s poetry is widely revered," confirms interim chancellor Ralph J. Hexter, "and UC Davis has always taken great pride in calling him one of our own. But I believe that many feel, as I do, that his work’s profound and quiet contemplation of the natural world and the smallest and largest contexts of our existence has never been more valuable, or needed, than it is now.”
English professor and poet Margaret Ronda agrees. "Gary Snyder’s body of work illuminates the challenges and possibilities of ecological existence in a time of cataclysmic environmental change," she says. "Again and again, his writing reminds us that there are other, more viable ways of dwelling in our earthly surroundings. In this sense, Snyder’s literary innovations hark back to the word’s Latin root, innovare, meaning to renew, to restore, to alter." 
Ronda was not the only one in the English department mulling the term innovation. Professor Mike Ziser reports that "scanning the OED I found an obsolete botanical definition that I think applies pretty well. Some mosses 'innovate' new shoots from their tips after fruiting and dying, and Snyder, who has produced perfect pomes/poems and left behind a living branch for us in the next generations, embodies just this kind of deathlessly mortal innovation."
"Throughout his remarkable career," Milburn sums up, Snyder's work "has been a wellspring of ideas and transformative writings that inspire us to attend to the conditions of the world, to dwell in the world with care, and to imagine things otherwise."
Snyder taught in the English department from 1986 to 2001. Among his many honors, Snyder won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1975, the Bollingen Prize for Poetry in 1997, and the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement from the Academy of American Poets in 2012. He has published numerous books with his most recent volume of poems, This Present Moment, and The Great Clod: Notes and Memories on the Natural History of China and Japan both appearing from Counterpoint Press in 2016.