Friday, February 20, 2009

Above Pate Valley by Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder is one of our best nature poets.  I think you can see here how Zen Buddhism has influenced him--he treats nature with a reverence.  


Above Pate Valley

We finished clearing the last
Section of trail by noon,
High on the ridge-side
Two thousand feet above the creek
Reached the pass, went on
Beyond the white pine groves,
Granite shoulders, to a small
Green meadow watered by the snow,
Edged with Aspen—sun
Straight high and blazing
But the air was cool.
Ate a cold fried trout in the
Trembling shadows. I spied
A glitter, and found a flake
Black volcanic glass—obsidian—
By a flower. Hands and knees
Pushing the Bear grass, thousands
Of arrowhead leavings over a
Hundred yards. Not one good
Head, just razor flakes
On a hill snowed all but summer,
A land of fat summer deer,
They came to camp. On their
Own trails. I followed my own
Trail here. Picked up the cold-drill,
Pick, singlejack, and sack
Of dynamite.
Ten thousand years.



Gary Snyder was born in San Francisco in 1930.  He was a member of the beat generation and is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize.  He is currently a professor at the University of California at Davis.



9 Comments:

Blogger ginger said...

...ten thousand years...that's strong.

i love how he tells his story and doesn't just go off on some sappy description of the scenery in an avalanche of similes.

12:31 AM  
Blogger gmoke said...

Snyder sometimes dates his work by going back to the Neolithic. Ten thousand years is how he thinks.

2:59 PM  
Blogger sidewayys said...

great choice. snyder is the man!

12:48 PM  
Blogger Sree said...

hmm.nice to read this.

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Appreciative of 'nature', but he doesn't side with nature or condemn himself either--but mostly accepts his actions or his trail--which may be what history is like but comprised of many others

5:57 PM  
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11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know about you but to me the poem speaks about the irony of man's appreciation of beauty/nature and his continued destruction of it.

After beautifully describing and immersing the reader in the scenery, he does the reveal: the man is not simply a man but a miner or laborer who is being tasked with digging into and effectively destroying the mountain for the sake of progress.

The final line of "Ten Thousand Years" is a way of setting the somber tone. We were shown the beauty of the surroundings and then shown the man is here to destroy it. The ten thousand years gives a sense of how untouched the place is and how easily and rapidly we destroy it.

So.. no Zen Buddhism here. Try and look past the surface next time okay?

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11:39 PM  

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