The Peter Matthiessen Center: For Writing, Environmental Justice & Contemplative Practice

Credit: Frantzesco Kangaris/Camera Press/Redux

Not open to the public


Guided by the legacy of one of America’s most distinguished writers and naturalists, Peter Matthiessen–an early and eloquent advocate for a more socially just, environmentally sound, and spiritually conscious world–the Peter Matthiessen Center (PMC) seeks to provide a collaborative forum for writers, thinkers and activists in pursuit of innovative solutions to heal our endangered planet. On account of his prodigious contributions to literature, advocacy for the natural world and Indigenous peoples, as well as American Zen during his five decades on the East End of Long Island, we strive to create thoughtful programming–inspiring generations to come.

You can make a tax-deductible gift in support of the PMC by mail to:

Peter Matthiessen Center

PO Box 1853

Sag Harbor, NY 11963. 

For more information, please visit:

Thank you!


A novelist, naturalist, wilderness writer and Zen teacher, Peter Matthiessen was a true “literary lion” of 20th Century American literature - writing over thirty books during his six-decade career. The only author to win the prestigious National Book Award for both the fiction and non-fiction, his poetic explorations of wild places and Indigenous people, as well as his novels, were often set in far-flung locales featuring characters on the edges of civilization.

Born on May 22, 1927 into a family of wealth and privilege in New York City, Peter Matthiessen was the son of an architect and spokesman for both the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy. At a young age, he developed a love of animals that would later influence his career as a naturalist. Serving in the U.S. Navy from 1945-47, he attended Yale University and the Sorbonne in Paris - later moving to the city where he briefly worked for the C.I.A. and founded the literary journal The Paris Review with childhood friend George Plimpton. There, Matthiessen spent time with other expatriate American writers such as William Styron, James Baldwin and Irwin Shaw.

Eventually moving to the farmland of Eastern Long Island, he worked as a commercial fisherman to support his young family. From his home in Sagaponack - where he resided for sixty years - Matthiessen traveled the world. He developed an appreciation for Indigenous people living amongst Native tribes in New Guinea and the Amazon Rainforest; a love for the African bush while exploring animals with leading conservationists; the thrill in the quest for the Great White whilst accompanying scientists in South Africa and Australia; and trekking the Himalayan Mountains in search of ultimate truth.

Having spent years journeying the mental landscape through Zen Buddhism, Matthiessen enjoyed time in monasteries in the mountains of California, New York and Japan - eventually becoming a Zen Master or “Roshi” - a journey he accounted in two books: The Snow Leopard and Nine-Headed Dragon River. “Muryo Roshi” would go on to lead a group of dedicated worshippers in his Zendo for nearly thirty-years.

A nature-steeped writer who dedicated much of his life to giving a voice to the voiceless among both animals and humans, Matthiessen believed in a world where environmental and human rights coexist. As an advocate for the natural world his unique writing encompassed themes of nature, philosophy, spirituality, the human condition and an exploration to understand man’s place on earth and within the universe - creating a legacy that has inspired countless readers and writers throughout the world.

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