88-year-old Gary Snyder is a Beat poet, Zen Buddhist, environmental activist and Pulitzer Prize winner. This month, Snyder will leave the house he built in the Sierra Nevada mountains for an evening of poetry and discussion at Macalester.
Poet and Macalester English Professor Wang Ping met Snyder while working as an interpreter for Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and said she is honored to bring Snyder to Macalester as an Engel-Morgan-Jardetzky Distinguished Lecturer. On Oct. 17, Snyder will speak at Kagin Hall on intelligent interaction with the wild.
“I would suspect that his sense of intelligence is quite different from what we academically term intelligence,” Wang said. “It’s more in the presence and the mindfulness — being highly aware of our relationship with this Earth, with nature, with each other.”
The Engel-Morgan-Jardetzky Distinguished Lecture on Science, Culture and Ethics occurs nearly every year at Macalester, featuring speakers from a range of disciplines. Dr. Oleg Jardetzky ’50, Macalester graduate and leading pioneer of biological applications of nuclear magnetic resonance, established the lecture series to commemorate the Macalester student fundraising initiative that made it possible for him to attend Macalester as a World War II refugee in 1949.
The Jardetzky Lecture intends to bridge the divide between science and the humanities. “When scientists don’t think about how the application of their work can impact society, that can be really problematic,” said Mary Montgomery, chair of Macalester’s biology department. “Physicists made an atomic bomb. Geneticists right now have the ability to edit the genome in an unprecedented way.”
Wang enjoys co-teaching with science departments and is currently planning a course in quantum physics and poetics. “My goal, and I’m sure it’s Gary Snyder’s goal, is to bring everything together again,” Wang said. In her opinion, Snyder’s work in both poetry and environmentalism makes him “a perfect fit” for the multidisciplinary lecture series.
Alex Delhagen ’19 learned about Snyder’s work in professor Christie Manning’s environmental classics course, which features a bonfire and discussion of his poetry at the end of the semester.
“I think Gary Snyder is a person who can open your mind up to our place as humans in this world that we exist in,” Delhagen said. “He helps you think about your own existence in a different way.”
Tickets for the Jardetzky Lecture are available to Macalester students and faculty for a limited time before they are released to the general public. The tickets are currently free at the Macalester Campus Center Information Desk. There will be a Q&A and book signing with Snyder after the event.
“He lives as a model for people,” Wang said. “I hope that his presence and his poetry will set our culture on the right path again. You really have to meet him and talk to him and experience it for yourself.”