Brown College Brings Writers Gary Snyder and Rebecca Solnit in April

March 19, 2010 — Poet Gary Snyder and writer Rebecca Solnit will visit the University of Virginia in April as part of Brown College's Visiting Environmental Writers and Scholars Lecture Series. Their talks are free and open to the public.

Solnit, the inaugural Carl Trindle Visiting Writer, will give talks on April 5 and 6. She will speak at the Ivy Creek Natural Area education building at 7:30 p.m. on April 5, and in U.Va.'s Newcomb Hall South Meeting Room at 2 p.m. on April 6.

Snyder will give a public reading April 13 at 5:30 p.m. in the Newcomb Hall Theater. The event is free, but tickets are required and can be obtained in person at the U.Va. Arts Box Office, or by phone at 434-924-3376. Tickets cannot be ordered online, and there is a limit of two per person.

Solnit is an activist, historian and writer who lives in San Francisco. A contributing editor at Orion Magazine, she is the best-selling author of 10 books, among them "River of Shadows" and "Wanderlust: A History of Walking."

In her most recent book, "A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster," Solnit surveys disasters from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to the Sept. 11 terror attacks to Hurricane Katrina, and shows that the typical response to calamity is spontaneous altruism, self-organization and mutual aid, with neighbors and strangers calmly rescuing, feeding and housing each other.

Also a contributing editor to Harper's magazine, Solnit frequently writes for the political site Tomdispatch.com and occasionally for the London Review of Books and the Guardian (U.K.). In 2003 she won the Lannan Foundation Literary Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the National Book Critics Circle Award for "River of Shadows."

Snyder, who was born in San Francisco and was brought up in the Pacific Northwest, has been called a modern-day Henry David Thoreau.

In the late 1960s, he told an interviewer, "I try to hold both history and the wilderness in mind, that my poems may approach the true measure of things and stand against the unbalance and ignorance of our times."

For almost five decades, his life and work have followed that idea. In his career, he has pursued academic, creative and spiritual studies; in life, he has combined contemplative practice and physical labor. He has worked as a logger, a trail-crew member and a seaman on a Pacific tanker.

He was writing about living lightly and simply on the land and respecting the earth before it became commonplace to claim being "green." As one interviewer said 20 years ago, he already had been advocating "neighborhood values and watershed politics" for decades.

Between jobs, Snyder studied Asian languages at the University of California at Berkeley; was associated with Beat Generation writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and later with the Black Mountain Poetry group; lived in Japan and studied Buddhism for 12 years; and has since been teaching literature and "wilderness thought" at the University of California at Davis.

Snyder is the author of more than 20 collections of poetry and prose, including "Mountains and Rivers Without End," The Practice of the Wild" and "No Nature." Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 for "Turtle Island," he also has been awarded the Bollingen Poetry Prize, the Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2004 Japanese Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Grand Prize.

Brown College is a residential community at U.Va. with 300 undergraduate and graduate students. Residents enjoy a friendly, intellectually stimulating and socially accepting academic community that is closely tied to U. Va. faculty by Brown's faculty fellows and is self-governed by Brown's governance board, a committee of approximately 30 Brown residents that makes decisions, organizes events and disburses funds to enrich life in Brown College.

— By Anne Bromley