Gary Snyder, "Song of the Turkey Buzzard: The Poetry of Lew Welch"

Co-presented with the Poetry Society of America
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Episode Summary

Join Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Snyder and friends for an evening of spoken word to celebrate the work of Beat poet Lew Welch, on the 40th anniversary of his disappearance.

Participant(s) Bio

Gary Snyder is a poet, author, scholar, cultural critic, and Professor Emeritus of UC Davis. He graduated from Reed college in Portland, Oregon (where his roommates were poets Lew Welch and Philip Whalen) in 1951. In the Bay Area, Snyder associated with Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan, Philip Whalen, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and others who were part of the remarkable flowering of west coast poetry during the fifties. In 1956 he moved to Japan to study Zen Buddhism and East Asian culture. For the last thirty-eight years, he has lived in the northern Sierra Nevada. He divides his time between environmental and cultural issues with a focus on the Sierra Nevada ecosystem, and teaching with a focus on creative writing, ethnopoetics, and bioregional praxis. He is the author of numerous books of poetry and prose. He has been awarded the Pulitzer prize for poetry (1975) as well as the Bollingen Prize (1997). His selected poems No Nature was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1992.

Lew Welch attended Reed College in Oregon, where he met future Beat poets Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen. While at graduate school at the University of Chicago in 1951, he suffered a nervous breakdown. He left school and went into psychotherapy while working as an advertising copywriter. (He came up with the famous slogan "RAID KILLS BUGS DEAD.") He moved to San Francisco to pursue his work as a poet, supporting himself as a cabdriver and became an active participant in Beat culture, living at various times with Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and appearing as the character, Dave Wain in Jack Kerouac's novel, Big Sur. Welch published and performed widely during the 1960s, and taught a poetry workshop as part of the University of California Extension in San Francisco from 1965 to 1970 and as poet-in-residence at Reed College in January 1971. On May 23rd 1971, he left behind a note and walked out of Snyder's house in the mountains carrying a revolver. His body was never found. Lew Welch is included in many Beat Generation retrospectives or anthologies, and his book of collected poems, Ring of Bone, was first published in 1973.