Thursday, October 4, 2007

"Axe Handles" by Gary Snyder

One afternoon the last week in April
Showing Kai how to throw a hatchet
One-half turn and it sticks in a stump.
He recalls the hatchet-head
Without a handle, in the shop
And go gets it, and wants it for his own.
A broken-off axe handle behind the door
Is long enough for a hatchet,
We cut it to length and take it
With the hatchet head
And working hatchet, to the wood block.
There I begin to shape the old handle
With the hatchet, and the phrase
First learned from Ezra Pound
Rings in my ears!
"When making an axe handle
the pattem is not far off."
And I say this to Kai
"Look: We'll shape the handle
By checking the handle
Of the axe we cut with-"
And he sees. And I hear it again:
It's in Lu Ji's Wen Fu, fourth century
A.D. "Essay on Literature"-in the
Preface: "In making the handle Of an axe
By cutting wood with an axe
The model is indeed near at hand.-
My teacher Shih-hsiang Chen
Translated that and taught it years ago
And I see: Pound was an axe,
Chen was an axe, I am an axe
And my son a handle, soon
To be shaping again, model
And tool, craft of culture,
How we go on.

3 comments:

Leonardo Flores said...

I would like to dedicate this poem to my mentor and friend Dr. Anthony Hunt.

Castelar GarcĂ­a said...

One keeps learning different lessons each day


Key terms and vocabulary to better understand the poem Axe Handles

Kai = is usually a male given name. However, in later years, it has been more common among females. It is of Welsh, Scandinavian and Greek origin, and its meaning is "keeper of the keys; earth". Variant of Kay. Kai is also a Polynesian migrated to Hawaiian and Japanese word meaning big water the ocean the sea. Kai is also a Hmong male name that is sometimes spelt "Khai". Kai is also the English pronunciation of the word shellfish in Japanese. Kai is a very rare male first name and a popular surname, according to the 1990 US census. Kai in Burmese means : Strong, or unbreakable. Kai may also mean, in Japanese, mediation, or concerning oneself with

Stump = the basal portion of a bodily part remaining after the rest is removed b : a rudimentary or vestigial bodily part; the part of a plant and especially a tree remaining attached to the root after the trunk is cut; a remaining part :Stub; one of the pointed rods stuck in the ground to form a cricket wicket

The poem Axe Handles is a thirty-six-line poem which narrates a small domestic story that widens into a meditation on parenting and how it should evolve through time, the transmission of cultural heritage, and the relevance of ancient wisdom to ordinary, everyday life. The poet tells about teaching his son Kai, on an April afternoon on how to throw a hatchet in such a skillful manner that it will lodge into a stump. Kai remembers having seen a hatchet-head stored in “the shop” and goes to get it. He wants it for his own.

Axe Handles presents a great balance between the real and the inner insight that one possesses . Snyder reveals a natural cycle, sees the oneness of things rather than their separateness and observes directly without pretense or arrogance. Now that are all the traits of an Obi Wan Kenobi right there.

rp said...

Kai is Gary's son.