Essay on Gary Snyder 's Axe Handles

2269 Words Nov 25th, 2016 10 Pages
Gary Snyder’s “Axe Handles,” is a short poem, it gives a description of a small domestic story in which it extends into a meditation on parenting, a transmission of cultural knowledge, and the actual importance of old fashion wisdom to ordinary, everyday life. Mediate parenting was the actual intention that author, Gary Snyder, tend to accomplish. The poet (who speaks the poem), tells about teaching his son Kai, on an April afternoon, how to throw a hatchet so deftly that it will lodge into a stump. Kai remembers having seen a hatchet-head stored in “the shop,” and goes to get it. He “wants it for his own.” The father uses the hatchet they had been throwing to shape an old broken axe handle into a handle for Kai’s rescued hatchet-head. As he works, the poet suddenly recalls a phrase from his reading of the modern American poet, Ezra Pound, who did free translations of Chinese literature: “When making an axe handle the pattern is not far off.” He paraphrases the quotation to his son, relating it to his own task of using a hatchet to make a handle for a hatchet.
The poet, meditating again, associates the wisdom of the phrase first with Lu Ji, (the Chinese poet and essayist who died early in the 4th century A.D.), and then with a former teacher of his own who translated Lu Ji’s work. Then the poet has a revelation that leads him to compare Lu Ji, Pound, his teacher Shih-hsiang Chen, and himself to axes, simultaneously models and tools in the ongoing handing-down of cultural…

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