I’ve been reading Gary Synder’s poetry for while now. I saw him at the Acton-Boxborough high school when he accepted the Robert Creeley poetry award last year. He was fine — a unassuming poetry master reading from his work of the years. I like his approach to poetry and the more I read the more I like it. It is visceral and direct, unpretentious and as natural as a rock.
For example, this is the first poem in his collection Riprap:
Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.
I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.
I can’t comment on this but will instead quote Mr. Synder himself:
“There are poets who claim that their poems are made to show the world through the prism of language. Their project is worthy. There is also the work of seeing the world without any prism of language, and to bring that seeing into language. The latter has been the direction of most Chinese and Japanese poetry.
In some of my riprap poems, then, I did try for surface simplicity set with unsettling depths.”
And succeeded, I think.
Then the last time I was in Seattle, my daughter, a recent creative writing Master, took me to a little book store — Pilot Books — that specializes in poetry. I bought Ezra Pound’s gem of a book,” ABC of Reading.” I just strated reading it and come to find this:
“The Egyptians finally used abbreviated pictures to represent sounds, but the Chinese still use abbreviated pictures AS pictures, that is to say, Chinese ideogram does not try to be the picture of a sound, or to be a written sign recalling a sound, but it is still the picture of a thing; of a thing in a given position or relation, or of a combination of things. It means the thing or the action or situation, or quality germane to the several things that it pictures.”
Gary writes in the 50th Anniversary edition of Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems that Ezra Pound introduced him to Chinese poetry. And a whole lot more I suspect. It will be great fun and throughly enjoyable to find more connections between these two as I continue to read them both.