Sunday, August 16, 2015



By Gary Snyder

What have I learned but
the proper use for several tools?

The moments
between hard pleasant tasks

To sit silent, drink wine,
and think my own kind
of dry crusty thoughts.
-the first Calochortus flowers
and in all the land,
it's spring.
I point them out:
the yellow petals, the golden hairs
to Gen.
Seeing in silence:
never the same twice,
but when you get it right,
you pass it on.

Gary Snyder is an immensely popular poet belonging to the Beat Generation whose work is taken seriously by other poets. He is America's primary poet-celebrant of the wilderness, poet-exponent of environmentalism and Zen Buddhism. He has also made excellent translations of many Chinese poets.
There are times when we are confounded by the grand scheme of things, the meaning and purpose of it still unfolding and still frightfully elusive, and we ponder whether our life has made any point to others around us. In this beautiful poem, the poet points out a flower to his kids, showing them the yellow petals, the pollen-laced hairs. What use am I as a father or teacher if I don't involve myself in conveying tiny moments of instruction, perhaps elucidating a phenomenon in nature or the use of a fruit or tool, to my progenies or students? Snyder suggests that our purpose in this world lies in knowing the names of things and ‘the use of a few tools’, and then passing that knowledge, the craft of our culture, to the next generation.
For a writer, pen and paper are his tools and in every detail of observation of life and jotting his ‘crusty thoughts’, he may use it to his advantage. Snyder modestly claims in this poem to know only “the proper use for several tools,” how to recognize the “yellow petals, the golden hairs” of the Colachortus flower, and to enjoy contemplation while sipping wine “between hard pleasant tasks”. Having made a lifetime of mistakes, one hopes to have learned something, and as one gets older one realizes that the only way to keep anything is to pass it on.

This could be an inspiring poem for teachers.

No comments:

Post a Comment