Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thesis On Riprap

Life is incredibly hectic right now! Still, I am thankful I have a lot to look forward to. The NAIA cross country meet is next week well as the first draft of my senior thesis. The thesis is coming along well, I'm writing about Taoism (an ancient Chinese philosophy), poetry, and one of Gary Snyder's poems. I'm on page 10 of 25, and thankfully still have more to say. 

The poem: 

Gary Snyder

Lay down these words 
Before your mind like rocks. 
  placed solid, by hands
In choice of place, set
Before the body of the mind
  in space and time: 
Solidity of bark, leaf or wall
  riprap of things:
Cobble of milky way, 
  straying planets, 
These poems, people, 
  lost ponies with 
Draggling saddles --
  and rocky sure-foot trails. 
The worlds like an endless 
Game of Go. 
  ants and pebbles
In the thin loam, each rock a word 
  a creek-washed stone
Granite: ingrained
  with torment of fire weight 
Crystal and sediment linked hot 
  all change, in thoughts, 
As well as things. 

Gary Syder

Snyder was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Turtle Island, his 1974 collection of poetry, which he hoped would override his “Beat poet” epithet; even so, his personal friendships with other leaders of the movement had forever endeared him as a Beat writer. He graduated from Reed College and began his masters in anthropology but quit soon after he began. In 1956, he left from San Francisco to Japan to study at the First Zen Institute of Kyoto. In an interview with Nathaniel Tarn, Snyder explained that “Anthropology was concerned with understanding human nature--but then why go to other people, why not study one’s own nature. So…Zen.” Two years later, in 1958, he returned to the States and published his first book of poetry, Riprap (1959). “The Zen tradition of Buddhism often defines itself as ‘seeing into one’s own nature,’” Snyder explained, “and its discipline of meditation aims at gaining a clear perception of the self and the external world.” Zen, an echo of the more “orthodox” Taoist philosophy, was the foundation driving Snyder’s work. When explaining the inspiration behind his condensed yet distinctly nuanced poetic lines, he said, “I tried writing poems of tough, simple, short words, with the complexity far beneath the surface texture. In part the line was influenced by the five- and seven-character line Chinese poems I’d been reading, which work like sharp blows on the mind.” Snyder’s “Riprap,” the poem his first book was later named after, is similarly composed into “simple, short, words” that allows the reader to feel the prick of reality beyond the syntax; the words themselves were not the pinnacle of meaning.

Charters, Ann. (2001). Beat Down Your Soul. “Gary Snyder.” Penguin Putnam Inc.  
Tarn, Nathaniel. (1972). From Anthropologist to Informant: A Field Record of Gary Snyder. Alcheringa, issue 4. 
Almon, Bert. (1977). Buddhism and Energy in the Recent Poetry of Gary Snyder. Mosaic: A Journal for the Comparative Study of Literature and Ideas, Vol. XI, No. 1.



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