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How Poetry Comes to Me

Gary Snyder wrote this short, accurate description of how poetry comes to a person. It is not an easy process.

It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light.

Snyder spent time in Japan where he immersed himself in Zen Buddhism and poetry, some of which he translated and used to guide his writing. One of the poets he studied was Han Shan who wrote the following poem called LX.

I see similarities between the two poems. Snyder wrote about how poems wait for us at the edge of the just out of range of our campfire. Han Shan suggests, if we move during sunny times, we might not move at all. Like moving to the edge of the light, we move timidly to find what awaits us and searches for us. It takes being present and mindful to our world and others.

Han Shan has so many strange, well-hidden sights,

Every climber climbs a little timidly . . .

Moon shines in the dripping water;

wind brings the very grass alive.

Freezing trees flower with snow,

dead, bare trees leafed out in cloud.

Gored by cold rain, the liveliest soul turns away.

Unless it stays sunny, you’ll never get through.

About ivonprefontaine

I am a retired educator who recently completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. My dissertation topic and research was how teachers experience becoming who they are as teachers, as human subjects. For me, teaching is a calling and vocation that allows me to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what will call me. We have begun a small consulting and leadership firm called Rocky River Leadership & Consulting Ltd.

4 responses »

  1. thank you for sharing this interesting read.

    Reply
  2. I especially love the first poem. It’s delightful.

    Reply

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