Axe Teeth Poem Analysis

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 …show more content…
The poem stresses how much of language and culture is inherited, and it is appropriate that Snyder does not strain for synonyms. But instead lovingly repeats again and the same words: the word “hatchet” six times in the first thirteen lines, the word “axe” seven times in the last half of the poem, the word “handle” eight times, weaving through the lines from beginning to end. These words, and the tools they refer to, belong to the Snyder and are casually used by them, but they have been handed down over centuries, burnished by use, and remade according to pattern. The wisdom first quoted in the poem as derived from Ezra Pound is repeated in the poem twice again, once in his own words, as if the speaker could not relish it enough. What was taught to him by Pound, by Lu Ji, and by Chen, he seizes to teach to Kai, in this providential moment. He is a disciple of archaic wisdom, a practitioner of it, and a teacher in his own right, using the tools in his hands to demonstrate how “we’ll shape the handle / by checking the handle / Of the axe we cut with” (Nordstrom, 1989). This is a lesson at once in tool making, in philosophy, and in

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