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Ax Handles by Gary Snyder - Poem

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Blog entry by David Craig posted 01-26-2010 01:19 PM 2365 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Good morning all,

Just read a blog by Todd Clippinger regarding the fact that we are responsible for inspiring the next generation of woodworkers. It reminded me of a Poem by Gary Snyder. Gary is one of the original beat poets back in the sixties and was very much a conservationist, woodworker, an all around hands on guy when it came to nature and work. This poem was written about an experience he had with his son Kai. It is a poem I believe that truly belongs on a wall in every woodworkers shop -

One afternoon the last week in April
Showing Kai how to throw a hatchet
One-half turn and it sticks in a stump.
He recalls the hatchet-head
Without a handle, in the shop
And go gets it, and wants it for his own.
A broken-off axe handle behind the door
Is long enough for a hatchet,
We cut it to length and take it
With the hatchet head
And working hatchet, to the wood block.
There I begin to shape the old handle
With the hatchet, and the phrase
First learned from Ezra Pound
Rings in my ears!
“When making an axe handle the pattem is not far off.” And I say this to Kai “Look: We’ll shape the handle By checking the handle Of the axe we cut with-” And he sees. And I hear it again: It’s in Lu Ji’s Wen Fu, fourth century A.D. “Essay on Literature”-in the Preface: “In making the handle Of an axe By cutting wood with an axe The model is indeed near at hand.- My teacher Shih-hsiang Chen Translated that and taught it years ago And I see: Pound was an axe, Chen was an axe, I am an axe And my son a handle, soon To be shaping again, model And tool, craft of culture, How we go on.

Thank you for reading.

David

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.



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