Prepared by Alex Gildzen
Revised by Athena Salaba, January 30, 1995; Last updated January 2008
1 document case, .33 cubic foot, 11th floor
Gary Snyder was born on May 8, 1930 in San Francisco, California, to Harold Alton and Lois (Willkie). He was raised in Washington and Oregon on small farms. Snyder held jobs as logger, seaman, fire-look-out and trail crew worker for the U.S. Forest Service. He received his degree in literature and anthropology from Reed College and did some graduate work in linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, where he pursued his interests in Asian thought. He served as a member of the Department of English at the University of California, Berkeley, for one year (1964). During the 1950's he became involved with the San Francisco Beat movement and later when he moved to Japan he bacame involved in Zen Buddhism. Both of these involvements have a characteristic influence on his poetry. In his writing we see an appreciation for the hard rural work, an influence of Eastern literature and philosophy, and an interest and commitment to poetry, society, and the natural world. Snyder
received a number of honors and awards, among them a Pulitzer Prize for his poetry collection Turtle Island (1974). Among his poetry collections are Riprap (1959), Myths & Texts (1960), The Back Country (1967), Regarding Wave (1969), Turtle Island and Axe Handles (1983). Other notable works are Earth House Hold (1969), The Old Ways (1979) and The Real Work (1980).
Scope and Content
The Department began purchasing Gary Snyder's manuscript material in the early 1970s and has made it a collecting priority since that time. One of the focus areas for collection development within Special Collections is contemporary poetry. An effort is made to collect Gary Snyder's printed works comprehensively, while enhancing the printed material with manuscripts and letters as they are available in the market. Provenance varies but most of the material was purchased from Jim Lowell's Asphodel Bookshop.
The collection includes manuscripts of individual poems, his poetry
collection Myths & Texts and Peter Easy's work about Snyder's
poetry. Mainly, it consists of Snyder's correspondence with Will Petersen and with Arthur & Kit Knight. In his letters to Petersen he discusses general matters, life in Japan, writing and publishing plans, reading tours, etc. His letters to Arthur & Kit Knight discuss Snyder's contributions to several publications and permissions to include his works in forthcoming publications.
Folder -- Contents
1955: Cold Mountain Poems of Han-shan.
Autograph Document. 67 p., 27.8 cm.
The manuscript consists of the following: A. Class notes for Chinese
Literary History seminar at Berkeley, 1p. B. The poems - in Chinese characters,
typed translations, corrections & notes, romanized versions of the Chinese
All the above tied together in the Chinese
fashion. C. Snyder's typescript trans. of Preface by Lu Ch'in Yen and the
24 poems with changes & notes, 11p., bound in tan paper binder. D. Carbon
of the preface, 5p., notes, 2p., 17 of the poems, 3p., all with corrections. E.
"Fang's Suggestions", notes, 4p. Published in
Evergreen Review, No. 2, Autumn 1958, 69-80.
1956, 6 June: [Kyoto, Japan] To Will Petersen [Oakland, Calif.]
Relates that [Philip] Whalen reports Petersen will arrive in Japan in
January; is cataloging some journals for the Zen Institute; "This Sunday I
am to attend my first No"; plans "serious Zen training under
Zen Master Miura Isshu" in July. Typed Letter Signed. 1p., 28.5cm.
1956, 9 Aug.: [Kyoto, Japan] To [Will] Pete[rsen] [Oakland, Calif.].
Tells how hot it is in Japan and that he's happy Petersen plans to come
there; "I spend my days studying Japanese & ... memeorizing sutras ...";
asks if Petersen is doing art for next Bussei and that he's submitting
Kanzan translations; mentions magazine publications; "...Buddhism is sure a
dead duck as far as the people go." Typed Letter Signed. 1p., 28.5cm.
1956 [Sept.]: [Kyoto, Japan] To Will [Petersen] [Oakland, Calif.].
Discusses travels; "I have gotten an unreasonable passion to learn
woodcarving now"; asks for support in publishing article on Sangha; advises
cheapest way to cross ocean; discusses mountain-climbing, Zen and his being a
poet. Typed Letter Signed. 1p., 28.5cm.
1956: Myths & Texts. Typed Document. 60p., 28cm.
"Myths & Texts" MS and "work sheets."
Corrections, references and notes in the author's hand throughout. Includes
four pages of hand written notes at conclusion of mss. Dated 1953-1956.
Accompanied by envelope sent from Snyder in Kyoto, Japan to himself in
Corte Madera, California and a note in the Author's hand, 7.2cm. "Dear
Jas.,/Here's this/ Gary". Published in New York by Totem Press, 1960.
 4 Jan.: [Kyoto, Japan] To [Will] Pete[rsen] [Oakland, Calif.].
Just arrived back from two weeks in Tokyo; "... the totality of my MSS
is in hands of Bob Creeley somewhere in New Mexico"; discusses his article;
critiques a poem by Petersen. Typed Letter Signed. 1p., 28cm.
1957, 23 Jun.: A Dry Day in the Rainy Season. Typed Document. 1p., 28cm.
Six-line poem, dated June 23, 1957. Another version, crossed out in
pencil, is on reverse.
 6 Sept.: ["just off Singapore"] To [Will] Pete[rsen].
Writes from "a rusty old tramp tanker" running oil under U.S.
Navy contract from Persia to Japan; his position: "a Fireman-water-tender
in the engine room"; asks him to send books: Naganuma, Classical Japanese
Literature, Dostoevsky, Latin Poets, Jane Austen. A second page is written on
Sept. 8 from Bay of Bengal. Asks Petersen to forget about books since orders
are to go to Ceylon; says he is tired from working "12 Hours a day";
discusses a girl: "I always wanted a girl who would go hiking with me [sic]".
Handwritten postscript dated Sept. 10. Going to Hawaii and perhaps to the U.S.
by Nov. 1. Typed Letter Signed. 2p. [i.e. 3p.], 17,4cm.
Twenty-three line poem typed on lined yellow paper with corrections in
lead and red pencil. Written from the Arabian Sea, Nov. 6, 1957.
1957, 10 Nov.: [Red Sea] To [Will] Pete[rsen].
Wishes Petersen well in his love for Ami [later Mrs. Petersen]; gives
tanker's itinerary and describes places visited; discusses his recent literary
output. Concludes with "Satellite Calypso" lyrics. Typed Letter
Signed. 3p., 17.5cm.
 23 Nov.: [Pozzuoli, Italy] To Jack [Kerouac].
Describes life on the ship Sappa Creek; encloses poems. Typed Letter
Signed. 5p., 28cm.
Partly published in Io, 14 (Summer, 1972, p.85-87).
1957, 22 Dec.: [Aegean Sea] To [Will] Pete[rsen].
Comments on Petersen's marriage; details voyage, describing stops; receives
letter from Yampolsky; "A Stone Garden" in progress; wrote "Tahkev
Blues"; includes poem, "USNS SAPPA CREEK"; about to begin reading
Jane Eyre. Typed Letter Signed. 4p., 17.5cm.
1957: [Iran] To [Will] Pete[rsen] [Kyoto, Japan].
Inquires about Cid Corman's "venture"; "Civilization is a
rare & fragile flower, man - [I been digging the idea of colour in
sculpture; why not? or 3-dimensional neo-Cubist painting?]" Autograph
Postcard Signed. 1l., 8.8cm.
"Up all last night gassing & wenching about; the whole crew now
swigging vodka in the focsls & fighting."; discusses "walking
zazen"; describes "Xmas Eve & Day" in Byzantium. Autograph
Letter Signed. 2p., 17.5cm.
1958, 2 Feb.: A Monument on Okinawa. Typed Document. 1p., 28cm.
Eight-line poem dated "2 february 1958."
1958, 8 Feb.: [South China Sea] To [Will Petersen].
Describes adventures in port; "People think sailors are foolish to
throw away money in port, but I see now the psychological necessity of it.
Without these blows the work & days of dullness would be intolerable; now we
can go on." Discusses "non-functional architecture" and his
writing; "I don't send second-best poems out." Suggests he and
Petersen collaborate on a book on Japan; discusses D.H. Lawrence: "Plumed
Serpent ... MUST be read."; "The Classical world hit me like birds
in Byzantium ..."; quotes Yeats; offers money. Typed Letter Signed (with
penciled postscript) 2p., 26.7cm.
 [Mar?]: [Gilbert Islands] To [Will] Pete[rsen] and Ami.
Last letter from sea; describes shore leave in Samoa; gives him his
father's address; says he'll mountain-climb in summer, go to Japan in fall;
thanks him for poems; asks if he can help publish one. Typed Letter Signed.
Back in the States: "I'm too nervous to write much yet. America is
all blind & silly. The scene (beat. gen.) around North Beach has little to
do with Allen or Jack. It just exploded into something. Maybe it will be o.k."
"I feel strangely ill at ease in general - can't go up to people &
start bullshitting like in Japan or elsewhere"; doing zazen "in a room
over my father's garage"; plans to move into Locke McCorkle's "mountain
shack"; asks what they want for a wedding present. Autograph Letter
Signed. 1p., 35cm.
 31 May: [Mill Valley, Calif.] To [Will] Pete[rsen] [Kyoto, Japan].
Discusses menu and gear for mountain climbing; asks if they would like a
sleeping bag as a wedding present; tells of buying a car to take Kerouac and
McCorkle "to our mountain rendevous"; discusses new girlfriend. Typed
Letter Signed. 1l., 30.5cm.
1958, 22 June: [Mill Valley, Calif.] To [Will] Pete[rsen] [Kyoto, Japan].
Opens with quotation from a Persian poem he's reading; in seaman's hospital
recovering from operation; would like to collaborate on book of poems and
drawings; tells response to Petersen's Stone Garden article; promises to send
him a bicycle tire and a copy of Subterraneans; plans to go to the
Sierras next month; "1 No. Beach suicide & 1 murder of No. Beach chick
last week. The cops are now putting heat on beats." Autograph Letter
Signed. 1l., 30.5cm.
1958, 21 July.: [Mill Valley, Calif.] To [Will] Pete[rsen] [Kyoto,
Mentions Japanese drought and San Francisco cold; his "shack" has
become a meeting place; plans a month in the Sierras with Locke McCorkle;
comments on proposed collaboration, book review, Kerouac dedication, Myths &
Texts and Corman's magazine. Typed Letter Signed. 1p., 30.5cm.
 27 July.: To [Will] Pete[rsen].
Sends poems for collaboration; asks for scroll; hopes to come to Japan; "Read
Myths & Texts to an audience of S.F. poets & painters, heads, at
a pad on Telegraph Hill last week ... it was well received & I am most
gratified."; mentions leaving for the mountains and Zen issue of Chicago
Review . Typed Letter Signed. 1p., 27.7cm.
 19 Aug.: [Mill Valley, Calif.] To [Will] Pete[rsen] [Kyoto,
Mentions he's "just back from the high Sierra countree" where he
climbed Mt. Tyndall and Mt. Whitney, hiked 120 miles; asks Petersen to check job
possibilities for mutual friend and to purchase some items. Typed Letter
Signed. 1l., 30.5cm.
1958, 28 Sep.: To [Will] Pete[rsen].
Promises to send money to cover sending of a tea set; plans to leave for
Japan in late December; mentions a reading with Phil [Whalen?] with whom he
stayed a week; informs Petersen he is called Ron Sturlason in Kerouac's Dharma
Bums; says Gregory Corso and Bill Burroughs are beginning a magazine called "Interpol"
to publish "only vile, disgusting, humiliating efforts." On verso of
letter is a poem, "Green Tara," in Snyder's hand. Typed Letter
Signed. 1p., 26.4cm.
[1958, Nov.]: [Mill Valley, Calif.] To [Will] Pete[rsen] [Kyoto, Japan].
Denies that portion of Paterson V is by him; aknowledges Ted
Enslin's book; discusses his reading ("Rob't Graves is a 1st rate poet");
mentions girl with whom he lives. Autograph Letter Signed. 1p., 30.5cm.
Acknowledges receipt of tea sets; mentions anthology of "Zen Poetry",
weather, Cid Corman's letters and poetry, readings with Phil [Whalen?] and
Petersen's No translations. Typed Letter Signed (with autograph
postscript). 1p., 30.5cm.
Announces Albert Saijo as "heir to my temple"; waiting to get a
ship; will give last reading at the Bread and Wine Mission; "... Corman
writes imposible letters but is a great person ..."; claims he came close
to marriage in the fall; "Ginsberg is working on a new series of fantastic
poems, including a long piece called 'Laughing Gas' ..." Typed Letter
Signed. 1p., 30.5cm.
1961, 9 Jan.: To [Will] Pete[rsen].
Writes that he "got started writing over vacation & didn't go
nowhere..."; "great feeling/borrowd a tape recorder &
worked with that some too." Autograph Postcard Signed. 1p., 14.1cm.
1961, 20 Jan.: To [Will] Pete[rsen].
Describes how to clean "the kerosene heater I left you"; quotes
Whitman; ends: "I ain't searching for 'tradition' I'm looking anywhere for
what can be used, made new, for the Revolution." Autograph Letter Signed
(on verso of poem carbon). 10., 27.6cm.
1961, 20 Feb.: To [Will] Pete[rsen].
Wants a student of Petersen's who doesn't sweat to contact Dr. Kuno, "an
expert on sweat". Autograph Postcard Signed. 1p., 14cm.
Accompanied by an Autograph Letter Signed from Snyder to Will And Ami
1964, 31 Mar.: Sections from Six Years. Typed Document. 9p.,
Envoy to Six Years: 16 lines, with "soogy," "soggy"
written in margin with pencil. Dated March 31, 1964. March: 26 lines,
with penciled corrections. April: 60 lines. September: 25
lines, two corrections. December: 53 lines, one correction.
These poems are part of a series published in The Back Country.
1964, 9 Sept.: [San Francisco, Calif.] To Will [Petersen] [Kyoto, Japan].
"September is my favorite month"; spent summer in the southwest
and pacific northwest; will begin teaching creative writing and freshman
composition at Berkeley; announces he is about to be divorced; claims to be
enjoying the United States: "The white anglo-saxon protestant mentality in
America is being replaced by a new consciousness which is genuinely
international; unihibited, relaxed, open, and self-aware."; living in the
heart of North Beach; wants to collaborate on a privately-printed book; Phil
Whalen coming over that night; reading includes Rilke, Cavafy and Duncan. Typed
Letter Signed. 1l., 30.5cm.
1964, 29 Oct.: [San Francisco, Calif.] To Will [Petersen] [Kyoto, Japan].
Promises to send eight finished months of book, Six Years;
announces official divorce; plans to stay at Berkeley untill June and then go
back to Japan; "Teaching continues to be exciting, but it is so verbal."
Autograph Letter Signed. 1p., 30.5cm.
1965, 3 Mar.: To Will [Petersen].
Informs Petersen that he won't go back to Japan until September; sends
poems from Six Years; predicts it will take a year to "do" the
collaboration. Autograph Letter Signed. 1p., 21.5cm.
1965, 24 Apr.: [San Francisco, Calif.] To [Will] Pete[rsen] and Ami
Mentions recent reading tour in New York; promises to inform him of "any
job chance around"; plans to meet them in September. Typed Letter Signed.
1966, 5 Jun.: [Kyoto, Japan] To Will [Petersen] [Columbus, Ohio].
Informs Petersen that he and Allen Ginsberg were in Vancouver when they
Six Years to be published by New Directions; "I'm enjoying Kyoto
and getting work done."; received a Bollingen grant to study Zen life.
Autograph Letter Signed. 1l., 27.5cm.
1968, 2 Mar.: To Will and Ami [Petersen].
Informs them he was married last summer and his wife is expecting in
April; will return to California in the fall. Autograph Letter Signed. 1p.,
 10 July: To Jim [James R Lowell].
Is writing a piece on D.A. Levy; mice have been nibbling on his papers,
including a copy of "The Firing" broadside; sends some gifts.
Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 28cm.
1971: The Dharma Eye of d.a. levy. Typed Document. 5p., 27.7cm.
Published in The Serif, Vol. VIII, No.4, Dec. 1971. (not out till
 [5 Mar.]: [Snyder], Gary. To Jim [James R. Lowell].
Sends two broadside poems by Steve Sanfield. Autograph Letter Signed.
1p., 22.2cm. Written on an envelope addressed to James Koller. Accompanied by
two broadside poems, one signed by Sanfield for James Koller.
1973, 13 Dec.: [Knight, Arthur and Glee], California, Pa. To Gary Snyder.
Requests contribution to a new anthology having a "Beat
focus/aesthetic;" inquires whether parents ever lived in Petaluma, Calif.
Typed Letter. 1p., 27.9cm.
1975, 29 May: Knight, Arthur & Glee. California, Pa. To Gary Snyder.
Requests contribution for anthology entitled The Beat Diary; offers
congratulations on winning Pulitzer Prize. Typed Letter (carbon). 1p., 28cm.
1977, 17 May: To Jim Mackenzie.
Feels publication of his interview in
The Beat Diary failed to conform to standard publication practices : was
not given the opportunity to edit transcript; copyright was not put in his name;
received no announcement of publication or remuneration. Wants reprint rights.
Typed Letter Signed (carbon). 1p., 28cm. Carbon sent to Arthur and Kit Knight.
1978, 11 Mar.: [Knight], Kit & Arthur. California, Pa. To Gary
Requests contribution from works written in 1950's and 1960's for
forthcoming anthology; also wants material for "postcard poem" series.
Discusses form of payment. Typed Letter Signed (carbon). 1p., 21.7cm.
1978, 15 April: [Knight], Arthur & Kit. California, Pa. To Gary
Requests permission to use two letters written to Philip Whalen in
forthcoming anthology entitled The Beat Journey; requests poem for
postcard series and photograph. Typed Letter Signed (Carbon). 1p., 21.7cm.
1978, 21 Apr.: To Arthur & Kit Knight.
Refuses permission for publication of two letters to Philip Whalen; grants
permission for publication of a "postcard poem." Autograph Letter
Signed. 1p., 27.9cm.
1978, 29 Apr.: [Knight], Arthur & Kit, California, Pa. To Gary
Thanks Snyder for the poem "Homestead;" will be published as "postcard
poem;" requests permission to include poem in forthcoming anthology The
Beat Journey. Typed Letter Signed (Carbon). 1p., 21.6cm.
1978, 4 May: S[nyder], Gary. North San Juan. [Calif.]. To [the] Knights,
Cannot recall writing poem called "Homestead;" requests
photocopy of poem. Autograph Postcard Signed. 1p., 14cm. On verso "Love
me for the Fool I Am" by Michael McClure.
1978, 12 May: [Snyder], Gary. To [Knight], Arthur.
The poem "Homestead" is not his; encloses a poem for publication
in postcard series. Autograph Letter Signed. 1p., 27.9cm. Accompanied by
holograph ms. of "O Mother Gaia."
1978, 5 July: [Snyder], Gary. To Arthur and Kit Knight, California, Pa.
Refuses permission for inclusion of his work in forthcoming anthology The
Beat Journey. No longer wants to contribute to the "beat mythology"
or "identifying my present self with a past self." Typed Letter
Signed. 1p., 28cm.
1981, 10 Apr.: [Knight], Kit & Arthur, California, Pa. To Gary
Announces forthcoming publication of a new British Anthology
The Beat Chronicles; requests permission to reprint interview first
published in The Beat Diary. Typed Letter Signed (carbon). 1p.,
[1981, 19 Apr.]: [Snyder], Gary, Nevada City, Ca. To Friends [Arthur and
Kit Knight], California, Pa.
Grants permission to use material in new British anthology The Beat
Chronicles. Autograph Postcard Signed. 1p., 14cm.
1981, 22 Apr.: [Knight], Kit & Arthur, California, Pa. To Gary
Requests contribution to new anthology entitled Beat Angels; thanks
him for permission to reprint interview in The Beat Chronicles; will be
giving poetry workshops in Western Penitentiary. Typed Letter Signed (carbon).
1p., 28cm. On verso of broadside "Is the Garbage on Fire Yet?" by Kit
1983, 23 Sept.: Knight, Arthur & Kit. California, Pa. To Gary
Requests permission to use his special collections at U.C. Davis Library;
would also like permission to include three or four of Gregory Corsos letters in
forthcoming anthology. Typed Letter (carbon). 1p., 21.6cm.
1983, 26 Sept.: Snyder, Gary. To [Arthur and Kit Knight].
Grants permission to use Gregory Corso's letters in their new anthology.
Autograph Note Signed. 1p., 12.8cm.
1983, Sept.: Easy, Peter, 1952- .
Tradition and innovation in the poetry of Gary Snyder, 1952-1982.
Typed Manuscript (xerox). 344 [i.e. 350]p., 28cm.
Typist's uncorrected copy of Easy's Doctor of Phillosophy thesis from
University of Hull.
no date [23 Feb.]: To [Will] Pete[rsen].
Invitation for dessert, drinks, discussion; asks about a cheap edition of
Japanese Noh Drama. Autograph Postcard Signed. 1l., 14cm.
no year [Aug]: Burning Island. Typed Document (carbon). 2p., 28cm.
Fifty-five line poem two corrections (one in carbon, one in ink). Dated "August
no year [8 Oct.]: To [Will] Pete[rsen].
Discusses Petersen's "attitude toward Blakebrough"; mentions
Imamura and Cid Corman; suggests he read The Forest and the Sea. Typed
Letter Signed. 1p., 27.9cm.
no year [12 Oct.]: To Will [Petersen].
Discusses the nature of friendship; mentions finishing the reading of The
Web of Life and the writing of "The Riverbed"; "If your life
is a No play mine is a Tibetan devil dance." Autograph Letter Signed.
no date: S[nyder], Gary, Nevada City, Ca. To Arthur [Knight], Rodeo, Ca.
Regrets that he cannot see any visitors ; is working on prose book.
Autograph Postcard Signed. 1p., 14cm.
no date" [Snyder, Gary] To [Will Petersen].
Map on a postcard. No signature. 1l., 9.1cm.
no date: To Will [Petersen].
Notifies of his arrival in California; "Work hard & sleep little.
It will make you great." Autograph Letter. 1p., 22.5cm.
no date: [Snyder], G[ary] To [Will] Pete[rsen].
Requests "several extras of Origin, or more";
pleasantries; "P.S. My wife doesn't really hit me." Autograph
Postcard Signed. 1l., 14cm.
no date: To Will Petersen [Kyoto, Japan].
Sends seven line poem to commemorate their climbing of Mt. Hiei. Autograph
Postcard. 1l., 14cm.
no date: The Bed in the Sky. Typed Document (carbon). 1p., 28cm.
A poem in five four-line stanzas dated "16:I:40068."
no date: A Curse on the Men in Washington, Pentagon.
Typed Document (carbon). 1p., 28cm. Twenty-nine line poem.
no date: For Zeami and Kwanami. Typed Document. 1p., 28cm.
A 26-line poem typed in brown. Line 22- last word, "brush", is
penciled out and "spruce" is written next to it in Snyder's hand.
no date: In the House of the Rising Sun. Typed Document. 1p., 28cm.
no date: Poem for a Stone Girlat Sanchi. Typed Document. 1p., 28cm.
A 20-line poem in brown. "Accent" is written in ink in upper
right-hand corner. Line 8 - "Forever" crossed out. Line 16 - comma
changed to semicolon. Line 17 - "armlets" crossed out and "spearhafts"
written in ink in Snyder's hand. On verso 5-line poem, "sidewalter butte"
typed in brown with a minor correction in ink. Poem marked over in pencil.
no date: Roots. Typed Document (carbon). 1p., 28cm.
Subtitled "bamboo and kaya, the grass used for that cling".
no date: Sand. Typed Document (carbon). 1p., 28cm.
Twenty-two line poem.
no date: Seed Pods. Typed Document. 1p., 28cm.
Psychedelic poem: 27 lines.
Two inked corrections.
no date: Shaman Songs I & II. Typed Document. 2p., 28cm.
Shaman Song I is 18 lines; Shaman Song II, 22 lines. Both typed in brown
on single sheets.
The poems were published in Myths & Texts.
no date: Unititled poem. Typed Document. 1p., 28cm.
A revised version of this poem, titled "Marin-an," appears in
The Back Country (1967). Poem is 15 lines.
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