CU-Boulder's Reg Saner To Receive Wallace Stegner Award

Published: Feb. 19, 1998

University of Colorado English Professor Reg Saner, whose prize-winning poems and essays evoke the splendor of the Western landscape, will receive the Wallace Stegner Award from the Center of the American West in a free public program March 4.

“Walking, Watching and Writing: An Appreciation of Reg Saner,” will begin at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 4, at the Boulder Public Library Auditorium, 1000 Canyon Blvd. Making the award presentation and conversing with Saner on stage will be CU Professor of History Patricia Limerick and Associate Professor of English Lee Krauth.

Each year the Wallace Stegner Award recognizes an individual or individuals who have made a sustained contribution to the cultural identity of the American West through literature, art, history or lore. Montana statesman Daniel Kemmis was a co-winner of the 1998 award.

Virtually all of Saner’s poems and essays draw on settings of Colorado and the American West. He is an energetic walker and writer who attends closely to every detail of the western mountain setting, from the force of wind to the pressures of winter cold, from the concerns of marmots to the geological sweep of the Grand Canyon.

“His explorations of the natural are really forays into ontology,” says departmental colleague Lee Krauth. “His work offers no easy affirmations but only deeply felt engagements created by strenuous physical, intellectual and aesthetic adventuring.”

“He is a world-class interpreter of this region,” adds Limerick. “He goes to nature not to forget our kinship, but to better understand it.”

Saner is the author of “Climbing into the Roots” (1976), “So This is the Map” (1981) “Essay on Air” (1984), “Red Letters” (1989) and “The Four-Cornered Falcon: Essays on the Interior West and the Natural Scene” (1993).

His newest book, “Reaching Keet Seel: Ruin’s Echo and the Anasazi” (University of Utah Press, 1998), will be published this spring.

Saner says the book is “the result of some two decades of visiting and meditating upon Anasazi sites and their emotional effect on us.”

Originally from the Illinois prairie, Saner says, “You cannot be in Western settings without being humbled.” His writing explores the individual’s relationship to the terrain, and to the experience of being alive, coupled with the knowledge that the West is changing through increasing development.

“There is a semi-secret agenda in what I write,” he says. “The genesis of ‘The Four-Cornered Falcon’ was to write a valediction, a farewell to the incomparable Colorado and American West that I have been lucky enough to know.”

He avoids preachiness and soap-box oratory on respect for the land.

“If you can evoke on a page the wonderful terrain that we have, people don’t need to be told that we have to take care of it,” he says.

A CU professor since 1962, Saner teaches literature and creative writing courses on the Boulder campus. His writing has appeared in 140 literary magazines and more than 30 anthologies, as well as being set to music.

His national honors include the Walt Whitman Award, conferred by the Academy of American Poets and the Copernicus Society of America, his selection as a National Poetry Series choice by Derek Walcott, an NEA creative writing fellowship, an award by the Quarterly Review of Literature marking its 45th anniversary of publication, and an invitation as Resident Scholar at the Centro Culturale della Fondazione Rockefeller at Lake Como, Italy.

More locally, he has received the Colorado Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the University of Colorado’s Distinguished Lecturer award and the University of Colorado’s Hazel Barnes Award.