on 9 July 1998
The cycles of life, and the cycles within our lives and those which can be experienced and observed in the world around us link the poetry in Gary Snyder's Axe Handles. Attracted by the settings of Snyder's California poems, I've been further drawn to the images and experiences described in them. "Getting in the Wood," "Working on the '58 Willy's Pickup," "Look Back," the selections in "Little Songs for Gaia" take me to locations I've experienced physically. Intellectually what attracts me is the sense of cycles perceived by the reader, and the awareness of cycles by poem's persona. "Axe Handles", the title poem, describes such a cycle: the passing of knowledge from father to son, generation to generation. While my personal experiences with the poet's philosophical framework is not as immediate as my experience with the physical settings, I am becoming more aware of philosophies other than those in the framework in which I was raised. Even with this level of ignorance of the neophyte, I experience the thrill of growing awareness when I recognize the wholeness of life experience described in the poem. The poet makes me want to understand more - a gift to me through his words. Not much of a quest so far, but I've found Snyder's memoir of his travels through India, more of his poetry, and the courage to speak with others about Buddhism and other philosophies different from my own; a modest beginning, yet a stretch for me.