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SANER, REG (1931- ) Reg Saner is part of a new generation of nature poets. His concerns are not solely with the beauty manifest in wilderness, such as that which surrounds his Boulder, Colorado, home, but rather with the environmental concerns that would make such open spaces sustainable into the future. His free verse poetry continues a line of American romantic poets who descend from Walt Whitman and Wallace stevens (see prosody and free verse). But unlike Stevens, Saner avoids taking moral sides, preferring instead to present the world as it is in its natural complexity. As a Shakespearean scholar, Saner writes with an understanding of the well-crafted rhythms and wordplay of the Renaissance masters.
Saner was born in Jacksonville, Illinois. He took a Fulbright Fellowship in Florence, Italy, in 1960. His first book, Climbing into the Roots (1976), won the Walt Whitman Award. His second collection, So This Is the Map (1981), was selected by Derek walcott for the National Poetry Series Open Competition. His fourth collection, Red Letters, was published as part of the Quarterly Review of Literature's 1989 book award. Saner was also awarded the Wallace Stegner Award in 1998
for his long-standing commitment to western American concerns, in both his poetry and essays on nature.
More than a simple regionalist, Saner attempts to capture the open spirit of the West as it was before the displacement of Native peoples. At the same time, he is not an apologist for western expansion, but a poet concerned with the interaction of past and present cultures. Many of his poems bear the titles of western place names, such as "August Evening at Crater Lake" (1976), "Anasazi at Mesa Verde" (1976), and "Reaching Keet Seel" (1987). His Fulbright years in Italy also provided sources for his passion for cultures, in ways contrasting with but also complementing his love of American wilderness. In such poems as "Waking to the Ceiling of an Italian Farmhouse" (1984) and "The Vesuvius Variations" (1983), Saner revels in a thick history of place; these poems are equal in their insights to the western poems. "I need to travel to do my thing," Saner has recently said, "I have to be physically, wherever it is I'm writing about. In a way, I write with my feet" (qtd. in Libid).
In "Road Life" (1982), he further explores this theme of geographical travel as the poet's passage through life. The speaker is called out into the world— "U.S. 36 has always poured possibilities / through your hometown"—only to find it always new—"Because you're a blur making time / like everyone else you've had to re-invent the wheel." Again, in "Skiing Alone near the Divide" (1981), the poet writes of his experience as explorer: The "compass is wind / incessant and westerly." The poet's identity forms through his constant uncovering of natural and cultural places.
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