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A N T H O N Y H U N T University of Puerto Rico “Bubbs Creek Haircut”: Gary Snyder's “Great Departure” in Mountains and Rivers without End Faas: Some of your poetry is full of esoteric allusions which seems to call for something like Eliot’s “Notes on the Waste Land.” Snyder: But everybody knows about Shiva and Parvatl, don’t you think? Faas: I really doubt it. . . } The problem of “esoteric allusions” in Snyder’s Mountains and Rivers without End is a real one. While the poet laughs about the possibility of writing footnotes as poems at the bottom of pages, or writing a final section of the poem “which would be footnotes and glossary all as one poem,” he is nevertheless aware of the seriousness of the problem, for he has no desire to be “out of touch with [his] audience,” or “to appear overly learned.”2 Unlike the failure of some sections of Pound’s Cantos, due to over-allusiveness, Snyder feels that . . . the level of meaning, content, interest, and music is going to be strong enough in Mountains and Rivers to sustain the reader through it.3 Moreover, the poet has spoken of clearing up the more difficult passages: 1Ekbert Faas (ed.), Towards a New American Po'etics: Essays and Interviews (Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1978), p. 140. nbid. 3Ibid. 164 Western American Literature . . . hopefully when the whole thing is put together there will be enough reverberations and echoes from the various sections so that it will be self-informing.4 The task of understanding these sections, however, extends well beyond a mere gloss upon difficult “content” words. Knowing who Shiva and Pârvatï are will not be enough. For example, Snyder has identified a “ku” (“focal image,” “key phrase”) for some of the sections; this “ku” is said to reveal the “bones of the poem,” and it is to be distinguished from a “content point.” About “Bubbs Creek Haircut,” the poet says: . . . ‘Double mirror waver’ is a structure point. Mutually reflected mirrors. Like, you see yourself many times reflected in a barber’s shop. You look and you see yourself going that way and you see yourself going that way. It’s a key image in Avatamsaka philoso­ phy, Buddhist interdependence philosophy. Multiple reflections in multiple mirrors, that’s what the universe is like.5 As may be demonstrated by this quotation, it is obvious that Snyder gives constant help to his readers. In published works such as Earth House Hold, Turtle Island, The Old Ways, interviews, letters, his senior thesis from Reed College, and even in his shorter lyric poems, the poet provides much of the correlative material needed to understand Moun­ tains and Rivers.6 However, although Snyder’s work is a model of interdependence in action, the “self informing,” “whole thing” of this long poem has yet to be presented, and while we wait for the entirety, each of the presently published sections needs the touch of explication to reveal its own depths and its relation to a growing whole. “Bubbs Creek Haircut” is, as the poet tells us, based on Avatamsaka philosophy, a Buddhist philosophy of interdependence. Snyder tells us 4Faas, p. 132. 5Faas, p. 135.®Gary Snyder, Six Sections from Mountains and Rivers without End Plus One, (San Francisco: Four Seasons Foundation, 1970.) “Bubbs Creek Haircut” appears on pages 1-6 and all further references to the poem will be to this edition. The poem was first published in Origin 2 (July 1961) and also appeared in the first edition of Six Sections from Mountains and Rivers without End, (San Francisco: Four Seasons Foundation, 1965.) For further bibliographic material on Snyder see: David Kherdian, Six Poets of the San Francisco Renaissance: Portraits and Checklists, (Fresno: Giligia Press, 1967.) David Norton, “Gary Snyder: A Checklist,” Schist: A Journal of Poetry and Graphics, # 2 (Summer 1974), pp. 58-66. Anthony Hunt 165 in “Buddhism and the Coming Revolution” that this viewpoint “sees the world as a vast interrelated network in which all objects and creatures are necessary and illuminated.”7 These interrelationships are so vast that they create a macro-, geo-, micro-cosmic network: “It is clear that the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 163-175
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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