Professor Emeritus and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder will be inducted into the California Hall of Fame next week, acknowledged for, among other achievements, influencing a generation of writers at UC Davis.
The California Hall of Fame, in its biography of Snyder, calls him “one of the most significant environmental writers of the 20th century and an influential figure in the ecology movement.” The hall notes that he has lived sustainably for nearly 50 years in an off-the-grid home he built.
Snyder, who served on the English department faculty from 1986 to 2001, also is lauded for his service as the first chair of the California Arts Council.
UC Davis has one other representative in the 11-year-old California Hall of Fame: art professor emeritus Wayne Thiebaud, inducted in 2010. Snyder and Thiebaud, each of whom received the UC Davis Medal in 2009, are among a hall of fame roster that now numbers 113 Californians “who embody California’s innovative spirit and have made their mark on history.”
Earlier this year UC Davis gave its own innovation award to Snyder: the Chancellor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovation. “Gary Snyder’s poetry is widely revered, and UC Davis has always taken great pride in calling him one of our own,” Ralph J. Hexter, provost and executive vice chancellor, said in announcing the award June 1 (when Hexter was interim chancellor). “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.”
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. — Ralph J. Hexter
Snyder has published 18 books and his work has been translated into 20 languages. He received the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, for Turtle Island, a title he described in the volume’s introductory note as “the old new name for the continent, based on many creation myths of the people who have been here for millennia, and reapplied by some of them to ’North America’ in recent years.”
According to the publisher, Turtle Island’s poems and essays “share a common vision: a rediscovery of this land and the ways by which we might become natives of the place, ceasing to think and act (after all these centuries) as newcomers and invaders.”
The next day, the public is invited to visit the museum’s 11th Annual California Hall of Fame Artifact Exhibit (Dec. 6-Oct. 31), showcasing the lives and legacies the new inductees: Snyder; Lucille Ball, entertainer; Susan Desmond-Hellmann, bioscientist and former chancellor of UC San Francisco; Mabel McKay, Native American artist and activist; Mario J. Molina, atmospheric chemist who is a professor at UC San Diego; Jim Plunkett, former professional football player; Steven Spielberg, filmmaker; Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor; and Warren Winiarski, vintner.
“The inductees embody California’s innovative spirit, diversity and culture of possibility,” said Caroline Beteta, president and chief executive officer of Visit California, a nonprofit organization that is among the supporters of the 11th annual California Hall of Fame. “These trailblazing pioneers bring the California dream to life and inspire people from all over the world.”