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This big little guy is in my In-laws backyard deep in South Brooklyn

Praying Mantis grows in Brooklyn

Gary Synder wrote that the wildness of Nature is everywhere.

From “The Etiquette of Freedom,” an essay in Synder’s book “The Practice of the Wild” –

“But wildness is not limited to (places formally set aside on public lands). Shifting scales, it is everywhere: ineradicable population of fungi, moss, mold, yeasts, and such that surround and inhabit us. Deer mice on our back porch, deer bounding across the freeway, pigeons in the park, spiders in the corners. There were crickets in the paint locker of the Sappa Creek oil tanker, as I worked as a wiper in the engine room out in mid-Pacific, cleaning brushes. Exquisite complex beings in their energy webs inhabiting the ferile corners of the urban world in accord with the rules of wild systems, the visible hardy stalks and stems of vacant lots and railroads, the persistent raccoon squads, bacteria in the loam of our yogurt……Civilization is permeable, and could be as inhabited as the wild is.”

Nature, wild Nature is the culture we swim in — it supports us even as we try to destroy it. We try to weed it out and debug it. But it persists. People move into cities looking for a better life and often they bring Nature with them because of old habits and ways of life. Many Chinese people and other orientals have moved into the Gravesend section of Brooklyn where my in-laws have lived for over 60 years. If they have a few feet of ground many plant squash and other crops. This is natural habitat for lots of wildlife including many sorts of insects. I’m guessing that my friend the praying mantis called the nearby squash patch home. But for some reason he was standing on the painted cement of the backyard (the whole yard is cement).

A doorway in Sunset Park, down by the docks.

A doorway in Sunset Park, down by the docks

An even less natural section of Brooklyn is Sunset park near the docks. 53rd street and 1st avenue is where I took the photo above. Railroad tracks and warehouses, factories and stone — the doorway attracted my photographer’s eye but I didn’t pay much attention to the green sprouts coming up, as they always do, through the cracks below. Given time they would cover the building. Abandoned towns and cities soon are recovered by wild Nature.

The disease of European civilization came across the ocean during the age of exploration. Looking for natural resources the explorers started the ruin of North America’s Nature. But the resistance persists. Unbridled civilization will not work. Nature will out. If not we are doomed, I think.

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Woods like riprap

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.

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