Gary Snyder Wins $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize

by Staff

The Poetry Foundation recently announced that Gary Snyder has won the 2008 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet will receive the $100,000 award at a ceremony held at the Arts Club of Chicago on May 29.

Born in San Francisco in 1930 and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Snyder contributed to the flourishing of the Beat movement of the 1950s. His writing has also been informed by practices in Zen Buddhism, which he studied as a young man in Japan. He has published more than fifteen collections of poetry, most recently Danger on Peaks (Shoemaker and Hoard, 2004), as well as volumes of essays and criticism. His latest work is the essay collection Back on the Fire (Shoemaker and Hoard, 2007). Currently living in northern California, Snyder is professor emeritus at University of California, Davis.

"Gary Snyder is in essence a contemporary devotional poet, though he is not devoted to any one god or way of being so much as to Being itself," said Christian Wiman, chairman of the prize selection committee and editor of Poetry magazine, published by the Poetry Foundation. "His poetry is a testament to the sacredness of the natural world and our relation to it, and a prophecy of what we stand to lose if we forget that relation." Eavan Boland and Sandra M. Gilbert also judged.

The annual Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize is given to honor a living U.S. poet for lifetime achievement in poetry. The award was established in 1986 by pharmaceutical heiress Ruth Lilly, who has made contributions to poetry in the form of student fellowships, an endowed professorship at Indiana University, and a significant gift to the Poetry Foundation, estimated to be worth two hundred million dollars.