Original poem reprinted online here: "Riprap" by Gary Snyder
Originally read: May 8, 2013
More information about the Poet: Gary Snyder
At the very beginning of this analysis past me wrote, "Riprap (n) loose stone used to form a foundation for a breakwater or other structures. (v) strengthen with such a structure." And the poem plays with the ideas of "structure" not only through the form, but also the wording.
The first two lines indicate the parallel between language and nature, "Lay down these words / Before your mind like rocks." Note that the focus is on the speaker's words, not language as a whole. His language. There's a set up of the prophetic speaker that both talks about language and nature.
The majority of the poem though is set in nature regardless of subject. What I mean is a line like this, "Before the body of the mind / in space and time:" (interesting internal rhyme) has it's root in nature and the "body" and "mind" part of this line comes off as a metaphor and direct. The body and mind of nature. The body and mind of self.
"Solidity of bark, leaf or wall / riprap of things:" The inclusion of a "wall" to have the quality of solid brings a natural to the man made. Furthermore, the idea of bark and leaves being contrasting textures but they are defined as the "riprap" (foundation) ties in the metaphor of foundational being more than texture.
"These poems, people, / lost ponies / Dragging saddles --" I haven't mentioned yet how, even though the poem speaks of foundation, the poems structure is very jagged, left adjusted to ten space adjusted in intervals. For me, every line stands out because of this, but the use of white space implies something to me -- that even though there is a foundation, there needs to be more built up. Look at these lines. The speaker bring the attention to the "poem/people" idea which is then compared to "lost ponies with / dragging saddles." What is missing here? The rider. A sense of direction. The white space is where the reader should fill in these questions.
The reference to the game of go compared to the world is expansive, yet too ingrained in the spiritual for me. Yes, I know I wrote that no matter the subject the poem goes back to nature. But what specifically about nature is the "world" referring to? The "ants and pebbles." To me the jump here seems easy life -> challenges versus the other uses of simile in the poem.
Just a slight thing as the poem turn to more of the stone, back to the riprap. And how Granite is defined as (because of the colon) "ingrained / with torment of fire and weight / Crystal and sediment linked hot" So the images are well rendered, here the tactile and visual come through because of comparison of granite (something opaque) is composed of multiple crystals (clear). Also note the feeling of fire, and the weight added to the line constantly shifts tactile imagery which transitions to the last lines.
"all change, in thoughts, / As well as things." The chaotic transformation of the images isn't dangerous, but natural, and the speaker emphasizes that the thoughts and things have a natural change, chaotic yes, with purpose that is the question.