Poem As WorkPlace Gary Snyder Essay

Poem As Work-Place: Gary Snyder & # 8217 ; s Ecological Poeticss Essay, Research Paper

Nick Selby

For

the American poet Gary Snyder the verse form is a work-place. The thought of work, I shall reason

throughout this paper, is cardinal to Snyder & # 8217 ; s ecological poetics because it allows him to

throw expressed attending on to the act of & # 8216 ; composing the land & # 8217 ; . This is clear from his

well- known environmental concerns, and his work with assorted ecological undertakings in

America since the 1960ss. Critics have therefore tended to see his poetics as an averment of

the interconnection of all things that is both Buddhist and ecological. Harmonizing to

Helen Vendler Snyder is better known as an & # 8216 ; ecological militant & # 8217 ; than poet, but I

shall reason that his poetics is an ecological poetics: it is the site for Acts of the Apostless of reading

that are ecological in their effort to read land and verse form as one. I want to propose,

nevertheless, that Snyder & # 8217 ; s ecological poetics discovers dichotomies & # 8212 ; land versus verse form, human

versus nature, self versus other & # 8212 ; even as it seeks to overwrite them in what Snyder

footings the & # 8216 ; existent work & # 8217 ; of incorporating ego, society and, most crucially, environment.

Whilst this marks his challenge to the political orientation of mainstream America, it besides marks the

extent to which his poesy is a merchandise of deeply ingrained forms of American civilization.

Snyder & # 8217 ; s poetic work ethic, this paper argues, is the land upon which anxiousnesss about

the obliteration of personal and cultural individualities, anxiousnesss at the bosom of American

idea, are worked through. This is because the dichotomies which Snyder & # 8217 ; s work expose

bespeak a troubled relationship to the land, they discover faultlines that are profoundly

ingrained in American civilization. Snyder & # 8217 ; s ecological poetics recognises that these can no

longer be sublimated into romantic myths of the land, but must be seen as the hints of

dissentious self-division at the bosom of the American mind.

The verse form & # 8216 ; I went into the Maverick Bar & # 8217 ; from

Snyder & # 8217 ; s Pulitzer Prize-winning aggregation Turtle Island ( 1974 ) bears the hints of such

anxiousnesss in its nostalgic remembrance of 1950ss America. To read the verse form & # 8217 ; s gap

lines is to come in an seemingly hostile environment, a propertyless saloon in

& # 8216 ; Farmington, New Mexico & # 8217 ; . Not merely does the verse form & # 8217 ; s first-person storyteller tell us that

his & # 8216 ; long hair was tucked under a cap / [ and ] I & # 8217 ; vitamin D left the earring in the auto & # 8217 ; ( lines

5-6 ) as a step of his sense of disaffection from the other people in the saloon, but the

waitress & # 8217 ; inquiry & # 8216 ; where are you from? & # 8217 ; ( line 10 ) is spookily equivocal, made more

threatening by its being set against the syntactically unusual & # 8216 ; Two cowpunchers did

horseplay / by the pool tables & # 8217 ; ( lines 7-8 ) . Interestingly, such anxiousness consequences from

the fact that the saloon is seen as a topographic point of leisure, non work. The cowpuncher & # 8216 ; play & # 8217 ; , as

does a country-and-western set, and a twosome acquire up to dance. Against ( or within ) this

puting the storyteller remembers working in Oregon in the 1950ss:

They [ the dancing twosome ] held each other like in

High School dances

in

the 1950ss

I recalled when I worked in the forests

and

the bars of Madras, Orgeon.

That short-haried joy and raggedness & # 8212 ;

America

& # 8212 ; your stupidity.

I could about love you once more.

( lines 15-21 )

The storyteller & # 8217 ; s sense of his relationship to

America, though fraught and equivocal like the sentence structure of these lines, is one which he

seeks to clear up through his relationship to the work he one time did in the forests and bars of

Oregon. If his disaffection seems to border a challenge to the complacent America portrayed

in this saloon, it is besides seen to be the merchandise of imagination traditionally thought of as

& # 8216 ; deeply & # 8217 ; American. Therefore, although the verse form specifically recalls the 1950ss & # 8212 ; itself

a period fraught by inquiries of Americanness & # 8212 ; its nostalgia is a complex site that

brings together a series of typically American readings of the land as a work-place. It is

in this relationship between work, land and individuality that the verse form is able to play with

assorted American character. In the infinite of these few lines, and because of their

indefiniteness of mention, we encounter the Beat foreigner of the 1950ss ( the apostrophe

to America & # 8217 ; s & # 8216 ; stupidity & # 8217 ; leads to a declaration of commitment that sounds strikingly

similar to the Allen Ginsberg of Howl and Other Poems ) ; a & # 8216 ; joy and raggedness & # 8217 ; which

callbacks Walt Whitman as & # 8216 ; one of the roughs & # 8217 ; ; and a romanticising of work in America & # 8217 ; s

Northwest that recalls a mythology of rugged backwoodsmans who see the land as a infinite for

the testing of single and national individualities.

The assortment and complexness of such characters mean

that the verse form does non show Snyder & # 8217 ; s & # 8216 ; unbecoming self-importance & # 8217 ; as David A. Carpenter

claims, nor does it to the full pull off to carry through, as Bert Almon believes, the & # 8216 ; existent

work & # 8217 ; of turning America back into & # 8216 ; ” Turtle Island, ” the Aboriginal name

for the continent & # 8217 ; . What we do encounter, though, is a verse form that works by turning back

( apparently without sarcasm ) to a & # 8216 ; existent & # 8217 ; experience of America as that which finally

validates individuality. Therefore, in the concluding lines of the verse form, we witness a re-inscription of

establishing ideological premises about America, 1s that write of the American land as a

topographic point for a fabulous regeneration of ego:

under

the tough old stars & # 8212 ;

In the shadow of the bluffs

I

came back to myself

To the existent work, to

“ What

is to be done. ”

{ lines 23-27 )

Myths of the New World as Eden, or as God & # 8217 ; s

plantation, as a virgin land, or the land of chance have all sought ( paradoxically,

possibly ) a manner of composing America into world. In merely such a mythic infinite we see

Snyder & # 8217 ; s storyteller & # 8216 ; rediscovering & # 8217 ; his & # 8216 ; existent ego & # 8217 ; . The & # 8216 ; existent work & # 8217 ; of this

verse form, so, involves acknowledging the forms of traditional imagination that bend America as

workplace into America as verse form.

The form of designation between verse form, land

and work is already good established in Snyder & # 8217 ; s foremost two published aggregations, Riprap

( 1959 ) and Myths and Texts ( 1960 ) . His & # 8216 ; Statement on Poetics & # 8217 ; for Donald

Allen & # 8217 ; s influential anthology The New American Poetry ( 1960 ) makes this clear:

I & # 8217 ; ve merely late come to gain that the

beat of my verse forms follow the beat of the physical work I & # 8217 ; m making and life I & # 8217 ; m taking

at any given clip & # 8211 ; – which makes the music in my caput which creates the line.

However, it is in the really accent upon the

physical, upon the effort to land poesy in the & # 8216 ; existent work & # 8217 ; of the universe, that

Snyder & # 8217 ; s texts show a deep anxiousness about seeing the land as verse form. This is non merely an

anxiousness of American poetics, but one which lies at the bosom of American idea because

it is coupled with anxiousnesss about the effacement of individuality within, and by, the land.

Such anxiousnesss unwrap typically American concerns in the manner in which their focal point is

transferred on to inquiries of the textual. I disagree, hence, with Lawrence Buell who

contends that an attending to the textual in American civilization leads to a dissociation from

the land. Whereas Buell argues that the marker of the spread between universe and text

efficaciously silences any environmental concerns, my point is that the anxiousness American

civilization shows in its marker of this spread is declarative of the anxiety of its

environmental imaginativeness. The & # 8216 ; existent work & # 8217 ; of Snyder & # 8217 ; s ecological poetics, so,

involves the self-contradictory acknowledgment that reading the land and verse form as one is to asseverate

their discontinuity, it is to recognize the spread between civilization and nature that any

representation of the land as a work-place implies. To see American Literature generated

from a & # 8216 ; sequence of religious appropriations of, and by, the land & # 8217 ; , as Marshall

Walker claims, is to tag how concern for the American land has ever, in American

thought from colonial times onwards, been marked by the turning of that land into a scene

of authorship. The considerable anxiousnesss about selfhood and individuality that are evidenced in

American texts by and large, and in Snyder & # 8217 ; s poesy peculiarly, therefore unwrap and compose

over anxiousnesss about the land as the cultural determiner of American individuality.

This helps to explicate why Snyder & # 8217 ; s poesy is

normally read as a reasonably untroubled speculation on the airy relationship between

environments of work, head and land. Typically, his poesy is described as one that

& # 8216 ; integrat [ Es ] & # 8216 ; , in the words of Patrick Murphy, & # 8216 ; the modus operandis of physical work

with the life of the head & # 8217 ; . What this paper seeks to dispute is the false easiness with

which such integrating takes topographic point. I shall reason, by looking at Riprap and Myths

and Texts, that Snyder & # 8217 ; s poesy works to do troubled those impressions of lyrical

voice, imagist lucidity and the verse form as environment that are assumed & # 8216 ; natural & # 8217 ; to his

airy poetics. Indeed, it will be seen that the classs of & # 8216 ; the natural & # 8217 ; and

& # 8216 ; the airy & # 8217 ; which have troubled Anglocentric American idea since the Puritans,

and were the peculiar focal point of concern for the romanticism of Emerson and Thoreau,

stay troublesome to Snyder.

The gap verse form of Riprap,

& # 8216 ; Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout & # 8217 ; , clearly announces the book & # 8217 ; s major subject:

an geographic expedition of the relationship between land ( flower stalk ) and ego that is established

through work. The poem derives from Snyder & # 8217 ; s experience working as a fire-watcher at

Sourdough mountain in Washington State during the summer of 1953. Critics have tended to

read it as a verse form of airy experience in imitation of the classical Chinese poesy

that Snyder was analyzing at this clip. What these readings forget is that it is a

work-poem. Work as a sentinel depends upon ocular experience, on the act of looking. The

storyteller is therefore defined by his relationship to the landscape because of his work of

reading it for marks of fire. This relationship is embodied in the verse form & # 8217 ; s construction, with

its first half depicting the landscape and its 2nd half the & # 8216 ; I & # 8217 ; within that

landscape. The work of the verse form lies, hence, in its conveying together of land and

ego:

Down valley a fume haze

Three yearss heat, after five yearss rain

Pitch freshnesss on the fir-cones

Across stones and hayfields

Droves of new flies.

I can non retrieve things I one time read

A few friends, but they are in metropoliss.

Drinking cold snow-water from a Sn cup

Looking down for stat mis

Through high still air

The verse form & # 8217 ; s attending is upon the work of mediation, or as I shall develop subsequently, upon

an thought of exchange. Not merely is this implicit in the verse form & # 8217 ; s signifier but in its imagination. And

in both instances the repetitive demand of reading the verse form is that we see it as a work-place.

In formal footings the verse form works because of the manner

in which the seemingly direct description of the landscape in its first half

( & # 8216 ; Down valley & # 8230 ; & # 8217 ; ) mediates and is mediated by the regard of the storyteller ( who is

& # 8216 ; Looking down for stat mis & # 8217 ; ) in the verse form & # 8217 ; s 2nd half. But that regard, his reading of

the landscape, is the sentinel & # 8217 ; s work. And in footings of imagination the fume haze, heat haze,

and teeming flies in the verse form & # 8217 ; s first half alert the attending because they look like

marks of fire, like fume. The work of reading these marks is hence important, and

determines the procedure of reading the verse form. This is seen both in the manner that & # 8216 ; smoke

haze & # 8217 ; is, upon farther reading, shown to be the consequence, non of a wood fire, but of

& # 8216 ; Three yearss heat, after five yearss rain & # 8217 ; , and besides in the fact that the concluding

smoke-like image of the stanza turns out to be & # 8216 ; Swarms of new flies & # 8217 ; . Our work of

reading the verse form is therefore correspondent to the work it describes.

This is besides apparent in the line & # 8216 ; Flip

freshnesss on the fir-cones & # 8217 ; . The line is non merely at the physical Centre of the stanza. It

balances & # 8212 ; mediates between & # 8212 ; the two fume images because it discovers the verse form & # 8217 ; s

cardinal form of imagination. The line & # 8217 ; s image, in which the natural is closely accompanied to,

or read, is besides an image that depicts such an act of reading as, ineluctably, an act of

mediation. The & # 8216 ; fir-cones & # 8217 ; are non seen straight, but through the medium of glowing

pitch. This, in bend, alerts the reader to the work of the verse form itself whereby the

landscape is ever mediated through Acts of the Apostless of reading. The vale is seen through haze ;

& # 8216 ; stones and hayfields & # 8217 ; are seen trough droves of flies ; and, significantly, the verse form & # 8217 ; s

concluding image looks down at the environment environing Sourdough mountain & # 8216 ; Through

high still air & # 8217 ; . Clear as this air may look, it is still a medium through which the

landscape must be read. Even the storyteller & # 8217 ; s seemingly clear vision of the landscape is a

affair of mediation between the human and the natural. Thus the work of the verse form agencies

that we see the landscape through the verse form merely as the storyteller sees the landscape through

the & # 8216 ; high still air & # 8217 ; .

The verse form suggests, hence, that an seemingly

airy experience of the land is marked, in fact, non by lucidity and transparence in

the relation between the human and the natural, but instead by a sense of that relationship

as one of ineluctable mediation. Always, the verse form suggests, the land must be worked upon,

it must be read. Snyder & # 8217 ; s poetics of the existent, so, both throws attending upon the spread

between text and universe, and seeks to get rid of that spread through the work of reading. Therefore,

although the act of reading is the verse form & # 8217 ; s commanding figure of speech, its existent work, such an act

does non signal a coming back to oneself so much as an dying acknowledgment that selfhood

and individuality are continually effaced by the land. At the minute of its realization in the

verse form, the storyteller & # 8217 ; s & # 8216 ; I & # 8217 ; is obliterated, forgotten, even as it reads itself into the

land and the text: & # 8216 ; I can non retrieve things I one time read / A few friends, but they

are in metropoliss & # 8217 ; .

Such minutes, in which the speech production topic is

obliterated even as it speaks, have normally been read in American Literature ( and in

Snyder ) as minutes of airy transcendency. This consequences from the romantic bequest of

Emerson, and has meant that the relationship between the human and the natural is seen as

airy, direct, a crystalline integrating of ego and existence. Famously this discoveries

look in the transition & # 8212 ; harmonizing to Harold Bloom & # 8216 ; the most American transition

that will of all time be written & # 8212 ; from Emerson & # 8217 ; s essay & # 8216 ; Nature & # 8217 ; ( 1836 ) when, for a minute

on Boston Common, the ego becomes all-seeing:

Standing on the bare land, & # 8212 ; my caput bathed by

the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite infinite, & # 8212 ; all mean self-importance vanishes. I become a

transparent orb ; I am nil ; I see all ; the currents of the Universal Being

circulate through me & # 8230 ;

Cary Wolfe points to the paradox at the bosom of

this transition, observing that here the & # 8216 ; pinnacle of selfhood & # 8230 ; disappear [ s ] at the really

minute of its attainment & # 8217 ; . Indicatively American, such a self-contradictory economic system of the ego

may look, ab initio, to run likewise in Snyder & # 8217 ; s poesy. Histories that situate

Snyder & # 8217 ; s poesy, for illustration, in the post-Poundian objectivist & # 8216 ; school & # 8217 ; emphasis that

its lyrical consequence is powerful exactly because, paradoxically, it witnesses an

Emersonian annihilation of & # 8216 ; all mean self-importance & # 8217 ; . It therefore seems to ordain the

& # 8216 ; acquiring rid of the lyrical intervention of the person as self-importance & # 8217 ; by which Charles

Olson characterises nonsubjective poetry. However, the airy minute for Emerson & # 8217 ; s

& # 8216 ; I/Eye & # 8217 ; works through an annihilation of any sense of the land itself as existent. This

is clearly in blunt contrast to Snyder & # 8217 ; s poetics of the land as work-place.

If Emerson & # 8217 ; s vision seems & # 8216 ; most American & # 8217 ; it

is because the relationship to the land it describes is one of direct exchange

between ego and other, interior and outer natures. The image of the & # 8216 ; transparent

eyeball & # 8217 ; does non depict a working of the land but a transcending of it. Emerson & # 8217 ; s

symptomatically American minute hence portrays a refusal, or at least an inability, to

read the land: Boston Common becomes an indecipherable space page, & # 8216 ; bare land & # 8217 ; . Thus,

whereas Snyder & # 8217 ; s poetics of work Markss a troubled exchange between land and text,

Emerson & # 8217 ; s minute of airy transcendency signals a religious appropriation of the land

that turns its regard off from that really land. What seems quintessentially American about

this is the manner in which anxiousnesss about America & # 8217 ; s ideological foundation, the colonial

appropriation of the land, are expressed as anxiousnesss about the annihilation of the ego.

From its very beginnings, the authorship of America has sought to reassign issues of the

working of the land onto issues of selfhood. An early illustration of this is John Smith & # 8217 ; s

pronouncement of 1608, directed to the firs

Ts Jamestown colonists, ‘he who doesn’t work,

doesn & # 8217 ; t eat & # 8217 ; . The existent procedure of the colonial working of the land is here disguised, in

Smith & # 8217 ; s work ethic, as a discourse of matter-of-fact self-preservation. For both Smith and

Emerson the land is non existent, it is a clean mythic infinite, a tabula rasa, upon which are

written the battles of American selfhood. The typically American, and romantic, gesture

encoded in their work, so, seems to be the turning of the land into a text, furthermore an

American text.

Emerson makes this explicit in his 1844 essay

& # 8216 ; The Poet & # 8217 ; . Once once more the exchange between verse form and land is airy, a affair of

visual perception: & # 8216 ; America & # 8217 ; , he writes, & # 8216 ; is a verse form in our eyes ; its ample geographics

dazzles the imaginativeness & # 8217 ; ( emphases mine ) . This vision of America, its geographics, is

dazing to the imaginativeness because any existent sense of the land is subsumed by the desire

to see that land as a site of cultural exchange, as the land upon which the work of

literary patriotism can take topographic point. But such a transmutation of the natural environment

into a cultural and textual one efficaciously displaces the sort of troubled concern with

linguistic communication & # 8217 ; s representative power that, as I shall reason, becomes apparent in the work of

reading Snyder & # 8217 ; s poesy. For this ground, reading Snyder through Emersonian theoretical accounts of

airy transcendency, theoretical accounts that finally fail to read the land, is to unread him,

to presume the verse form is the land and non a site for a working of the land.

A more utile theoretical account for reading Snyder & # 8217 ; s poesy

is Henry David Thoreau & # 8217 ; s Walden ( 1854 ) , a text, furthermore, that Snyder read during

his clip as firewatcher at Sourdough mountain in 1953. Both Snyder and Thoreau trace the

working of the land in an effort to review American political orientation, to reground its work

ethic. I shall reason, nevertheless, that, in the instance of Snyder, to see the verse form as a

work-place is to unwrap the extent to which his poetics is every bit much a merchandise of deeply

deep-rooted American concerns as it is a challenge to them. In fact, it is as a work-place

that the verse form becomes a site for the production of a specifically American & # 8212 ; though non

Emersonian & # 8212 ; reading of & # 8216 ; the natural & # 8217 ; . What Thoreau and Snyder portion, in such an act

of reading, is a troubled sense of the spread between word and universe that stems from deep

seated anxiousnesss about the turning of the American land into a text.

For Thoreau such anxiousnesss are expressed in his

misgiving of the procedure of exchange by which American civilization of the mid-nineteenth

century was progressively implicated in the demands of the market-place. His ill will to

the discourses of capital emerging at this clip consequences from his romantic sense that any

true and meaningful relationship to the natural is obliterated by an economic system of symbolic

representation:

I have & # 8230 ; learned that trade expletives everything

it handles ; and though you trade in messages from Eden, the whole expletive of trade

attaches to the concern.

The & # 8216 ; expletive of trade & # 8217 ; is that it mediates the

existent, replacing it with a system of exchange that clouds our vision of the land we

inhabit:

I perceive that we dwellers of New England

populate this average life that we do because our vision does non perforate the surface of

things. We think that that is which appears to be. If a adult male should walk through this town

and see merely the world, where, believe you, would the “ Mill-Dam ” travel to?

The cardinal concern subdivision of Concord, the

Mill-dam, is therefore, harmonizing to Thoreau, a fiction of exchange that displaces the existent by

the symbolic. Though Thoreau may try to & # 8216 ; live intentionally & # 8217 ; at Walden Pond in

order & # 8216 ; to look merely the indispensable facts of life & # 8217 ; , this effort is underscored by an

anxiousness that arises from the acknowledgment that such & # 8216 ; facts & # 8217 ; are accessible merely

through the system of symbolic representation that is linguistic communication. Thus the subsiding of the

land becomes, itself, a figure of speech for the battle to grok world. & # 8216 ; Let us settle

ourselves, & # 8217 ; Thoreau writes

and work and lodge our pess downward through the

clay and slush of sentiment & # 8230 ; till we come to a difficult underside and stones in topographic point, which we

can name world, and state, This is, and no error.

Snyder & # 8217 ; s try to render the ( work ) environment

as a fabulous infinite means that his poetic attending is likewise cast onto the

problematics of textual representation. This can be seen in the undermentioned transition from

& # 8216 ; Piute Creek & # 8217 ; , another verse form from the Riprap aggregation. Though this verse form offers an

seemingly direct description of the landscape, it is controlled by a sense of the spread

between word and universe. The verse form is therefore haunted by loss, by the manner in which the existent

land is obliterated by the text that seeks to stand for it:

All the debris that goes with being human Drops

off, difficult stone wavers Even the heavy nowadays seems to neglect This bubble of a bosom. Wordss

and books Like a little brook off a high shelf Gone in the dry air. ( Riprap, p. 8 )

As the verse form continues, it envisages such a

dropping off of human debris to be portion of the procedure described by Thoreau of puting

& # 8216 ; stones in topographic point & # 8217 ; , of fighting towards a sense of grounded world. But the lucidity

of selfhood and the heed of head that seem to be produced by this procedure are,

nevertheless, less the consequence of an apprehensiveness of world, than the merchandise of a

bewilderment of the relationship between the human and the natural. The verse form nowadayss

this relationship as portion of a common and airy system of exchange whereby the ego

and the land read each other

A clear, attentive head Has no significance but that

Which sees is genuinely seen. No 1 loves stone, yet we are here. ( Riprap, p. 8 )

The trouble of these lines prevarications in their

dramatising of the problematics of stand foring the land in/as a verse form. Just where

& # 8216 ; here & # 8217 ; may be is capable to the slickness of a poetic linguistic communication that struggles to

negotiate between the actual and the metaphorical. Here, in this poetic landscape that is

besides a topographic point of the head, where even & # 8216 ; difficult stone wavers & # 8217 ; , the trouble of settling

ourselves and non misidentifying world becomes unsurmountable.

Myths and Texts is generated from a

similar sense of the abruptness of lingual exchange, wherein & # 8216 ; words and

books & # 8217 ; become symbolic items of an object universe of & # 8216 ; little brook [ s ] & # 8216 ; and & # 8216 ; high

shelf [ s ] & # 8216 ; . Its opening line & # 8212 ; & # 8216 ; The forenoon star is non a star & # 8217 ; & # 8212 ; is troubled by the

same disjuncture between visual aspect and world that troubled Thoreau & # 8217 ; s try to see

beneath the surface of Concord & # 8217 ; s concern Centre. As an expressed mention to Walden & # 8217 ; s

shuting sentence & # 8216 ; The Sun is but a morning-star & # 8217 ; , the line introduces a text that,

like Thoreau & # 8217 ; s, mythicises the American land as a workplace. Whilst, in so making, Myths

and Texts describes how the work of logging destroys the land, it besides effaces that

really land by interchanging it for the symbolic economic system of a text. The text has no significance but

that which is generated from its relationship, non to the land, but to other texts. Therefore,

in & # 8216 ; Logging & # 8217 ; , the first subdivision of Myths and Texts, the devastation of the

& # 8216 ; forests around Seattle & # 8217 ; by & # 8216 ; San Francisco 2? 4s & # 8217 ; ( Myths and Texts, p. 4 )

comes to mean a wider anxiousness about American civilization itself as destructive because it

is framed by two other histories of how development of the land leads to cultural

obliteration.

The first of these texts, a scriptural citation

from the book of Exodus 34:13, seems here to picture the devastation of the wood as an

act of profanation: & # 8216 ; But ye shall destruct their communion tables, / break their images, and cut

down their Grovess & # 8217 ; ( Myths and Texts, p. 3 ) . Snyder & # 8217 ; s sarcasm, though, is acute. In

its original context the words are an injunction organizing portion of God & # 8217 ; s compact with Moses

and His chosen people: if the land is to be a promised land so its original dwellers,

their rites, and their civilization must be destroyed. This formative myth of the West, which

resonates so strongly with Anglocentric myths of America as the promised land, is followed

in the verse form by a description of the destructive effects of working the land in the antediluvian

East: & # 8216 ; The ancient woods of China logged / and the hills slipped into the Yellow

Sea & # 8217 ; ( Myths and Texts, p. 3 ) . The work of logging therefore becomes important, an

image for the precariousness of American civilization as a whole, because through it the land

is mythicised as a text of loss:

San Francisco 2? 4s

were the forests around

Seattle:

Person killed and person built, a house,

a wood, wrecked or raised

All America hung on a hook

& A ; burned by work forces, in their

ain congratulations.

Such an lettering of the land betrays the

desire to turn the land into that which it is non, a text. Therefore, the saving of the

land as a text, as a review of an economic system based on the commodification of that

land, means that the land itself is obliterated within the text & # 8217 ; s ain symbolic economic system.

The ecological catastrophe upon which all America bents like a hook, and out of which

Snyder & # 8217 ; s poetics is generated, is, paradoxically, one that can be apprehended merely through

metaphor, the exchange of text for land, word for universe. Here, so, Snyder & # 8217 ; s poetics

forces a confrontation with loss as the status of linguistic communication itself whereby the mark is

substituted, exchanged, for an object already lost.

That Myths and Texts is acutely cognizant of

linguistic communication & # 8217 ; s lateness, of what Jacques Derrida has described as the manner in which & # 8216 ; the

mark is & # 8230 ; put in topographic point of the thing itself & # 8217 ; , is evident in the shutting transition of the

& # 8216 ; Logging & # 8217 ; subdivision. The spread, Derrida & # 8217 ; s l & # 8217 ; ? cart, between the universe and its

representation is here anticipated by an imagination of splitting and rupture in which the

bifurcation of the natural and the manufactured is predicated upon loss, a loss of the

land that besides witnesses the loss of an imperium:

Pine slumbers, cedar splits straight

Flowers crack the paving.

Pa-ta Shan-jen

( A painter who watched the Ming autumn )

Lived in a tree:

“ The coppice

May paint the mountains and watercourses

Though the district is lost ”

( & # 8216 ; Loging 15, & # 8217 ; Myths and

Texts, p. 16 )

The verse form & # 8217 ; s acknowledgment of this spread leads to the

effort, in its 2nd subdivision & # 8216 ; Hunting & # 8217 ; , to reconnect with the Earth through the

description and poetic passage of the ritualized observations of the huntsman and the

priest-doctor. Though this recalls Thoreau & # 8217 ; s description of huntsmans as exposing a

& # 8216 ; peculiar sense [ of being ] a portion of Nature themselves & # 8217 ; , it besides envisages the

integrating of ego and other, the homo within Nature, through a shamanistic

reinhabitation of the land which the verse form describes as the & # 8216 ; Hatching [ of ] a new myth & # 8217 ;

( Myths and Texts, p. 19 ) . Again, the land is mythicised as a text of distinctness

and loss, a site in which the colonial imperative underpinning American civilization is played

out. This is felt starkly in the undermentioned transition with the verse form & # 8217 ; s try to call, and

thereby consume, the things of the land:

Now I & # 8217 ; ll besides state what nutrient

we lived on so:

Mescal, yucca fruit, pinon, acorns,

prickly pear, sumac berry, cactus,

spurge, drop-seed, lip fern, maize,

mountain workss, wild murphies, mesquite,

roots of yucca, tree-yucca flowers, chokecherries,

Acanthocereus tetragonus cactus, honey of the ground-bee,

honey, honey of the humblebee,

mulberries, angle-pod, salt, berries,

berries of the single-seeded retem,

berries of the alligator-bark retem,

wild cowss, mule cervid, antelopes,

white-tailed cervid, wild Meleagris gallopavos, doves, quail,

squirrels, redbreasts, slate-colored juncoes,

vocal sparrows, wood rats, prairie Canis familiariss,

coneies, musk hogs, burros, mules, Equus caballuss,

American bisons, mountain sheep, and polo-necks.

( & # 8216 ; Hunting 13 & # 8242 ; , Myths and

Texts, p. 31 )

Not merely does this push Snyder & # 8217 ; s poetics to the

bounds of its metonymic economic system, its representative power, but it besides engages an Adamic

myth of naming, the kind of myth that has normally been seen as cardinal to American

cultural individuality. This textual working of the land, reminiscent of colonial descriptions

of the New World, therefore struggles to shut the spread between myth and text in an effort to

integrate ego and land, to see them in a relationship of productive exchange. Rather than

supplying a poetics of integrating, the concluding verse form of the sequence really marks the

crevice between myth and text, word and universe. With its two subdivisions entitled,

severally, & # 8216 ; the text & # 8217 ; and & # 8216 ; the myth & # 8217 ; , this verse form sees the individuality of the land

as something that can ne’er come back to itself, something that is ever capable to

disfiguration, even as it is traced in the text. Therefore, in the verse form & # 8217 ; s first subdivision, the

land as text is a workplace, and the poet ( once more ) a firewatcher: & # 8216 ; Sourdough mountain

called a fire in: / Up Thunder Creek, high on a ridge & # 8217 ; ( & # 8216 ; Burning 17, & # 8217 ; Myths and

Texts, p. 53 ) . In the verse form & # 8217 ; s 2nd subdivision the reading of that land appropriates it

to myth, and it is therefore disfigured, going a belongings of head, and non of solid world:

& # 8216 ; Fire up Thunder Creek and the mountain & # 8212 ; troy & # 8217 ; s firing! / The cloud murmurs / The

mountains are your mind. & # 8217 ; ( & # 8216 ; Burning 17, & # 8217 ; Myths and Texts, p. 53 ) .

To reason I want to return, briefly, to the Riprap

aggregation, and, eventually, to its rubric verse form. Throughout this paper I have been proposing

that to read Snyder & # 8217 ; s poetics as one nisus for a airy integrating with the land

is, needfully, to tag the divorce between nature and civilization, land and text and therefore to

expose a faultline in American civilization. Riprapcannot merely be read ( as it frequently is ) as a

text of cosmopolitan interconnection. It is a text shooting through with a sense of crevice,

and breakage, of the act of sundering that is at the bosom of the act of working the land,

whether that be in the cleavage between land and ego from which the construction and imagination

of & # 8216 ; Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout & # 8217 ; is generated ; or in the figure of the

& # 8216 ; single-jack mineworker, who can feel / The vena and cleavage / In the really backbones of stone & # 8217 ;

in the verse form & # 8216 ; Milton by Firelight & # 8217 ; ( Riprap, p. 9 ) ; or in the split between word and

universe that is exposed in our work of reading these verse forms, and which can be read as a

merchandise of a capitalist economic system of exchange.

In his & # 8216 ; Afterword & # 8217 ; to the North Point Press

edition of Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems Snyder explicitly aligns the work verse form

of Riprap with Chinese and Nipponese poetic theoretical accounts by observing how they strive to

read the universe without being affected by linguistic communication & # 8217 ; s mediation. The verse form in Riprap perform,

he asserts, & # 8216 ; & # 8230 ; the work of seeing the universe withoutany prism of linguistic communication, and convey

that seeing into linguistic communication & # 8217 ; . In its & # 8216 ; work of seeing the universe & # 8217 ; the rubric verse form of the

aggregation, I would reason, confirms an anxiousness at the bosom of American civilization, one non

so easy dismissed as the book & # 8217 ; s & # 8216 ; Afterword & # 8217 ; implies, viz. , that the land is

unknowable except through the prism of linguistic communication, but to convey the land into linguistic communication, is

to kill it.

This verse form ( & # 8216 ; Riprap & # 8217 ; ) opens with this

paradox, with its puting down of words before us going a metaphorical way for a

detection of the vena and cleavage between word and stone, thought and thing, America and its

land:

Lay down these words

Before your head like stones.

placed solid, by custodies

In pick of topographic point, put

Before the organic structure of the head

in infinite and clip:

Solidity of bark, foliage, or wall

riprap of things:

The work of the verse form is non, hence, its overt

effort to incorporate the environments of land and verse form. Rather, the verse form asserts that

& # 8216 ; stones & # 8217 ; are non & # 8216 ; words & # 8217 ; , merely & # 8216 ; like & # 8217 ; one another, and that romantic

transcendency, that which sees the verse form as a riprap, a cobbled way taking up a mountain,

is merely a metaphor, furthermore a metaphor of working the land. To see the verse form as work-place

is to expose the workings of linguistic communication, and to do fraught our relationship to the object

universe. The ecological lesson of Snyder & # 8217 ; s poetics lies, eventually, in an attention to the

break in the really backbones of the existent:

In the thin loam, each stone a word

a creek-washed rock

Granite: ingrained

with torture of fire and

weight

Crystal and sediment linked hot

all alteration, in ideas,

Equally good as things.

It is in acknowledging the deeply ingrained

forms of America & # 8217 ; s socialization of the land that the existent work of ecological reading

can get down.

From Sycamore 1:4 ( Winter 1997 ) . Copyright? 1997 by Sycamore. Online Beginning

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