Part 1 of a new entry from CSID Fellow David Taylor.
Susan Denning: “Can poetry change the world?”
Gary Snyder: “Ha!”
(“Can Poetry Change the World,” in Gary Snyder’s Back on the Fire)
I’m certainly not the first up as the sun is already topping the eastern ridge, and I can hear coffee-roused voices coming from the direction of the cafeteria. But I slept well between the sound of rain and the sprinklers periodically spitting out gray water over the lawn just off the porch where we are sleeping.
At the bottom of the sloped lawn is a retention pond of brown water, rimmed on the eastern shore by moisture-happy cottonwoods. The western slope has nicely stacked thick slabs of sandstone. I take my sleeping pad down to the pond to sit seiza and count breaths. On the pond are water skimmers and other insects dotting the surface; a kingfisher arcs down from side to side catching minnows. “Circles and circles,” I whisper just over a breath.
At breakfast, SteveB, SteveW, Porter and I talk more—and more than about the tornado which touched down near Yucca House last night. Porter details his drive in from Santa Clara, near Santa Fe. Perhaps best in our conversation is a bit of a fire in each of us about our work and also a lot of laughter, good humor, and humility.
On the drive to Sand Canyon, the rest of us listen as Porter tells us a bit more about his Tewa Pueblo community in Santa Clara. He discusses the matrilineal and patriarchal lines, religious divisions of winter and summer, and within those the lineages and names. He says that only recently have Tewa people begun to take their father’s name; before, it was always their mother’s name.
I’m writing down much of what Porter is saying in my journal. I am writing it down in part as an oral history of his community; I am writing it down in part because I am a writer—I write; I am also writing down because I am wondering about the questions of ethnopoetics which have been hounding me throughout the project. I’m listening carefully to Porter’s words, but I’m feeling the line of appropriation grow fuzzy. I’m amending these notes by asking Porter about definitions and interpretations but in the end, I’m taking down his words, symbols, and ideas. Thus, I’m also, in some ways, taking them. It is this kindness on Porter’s part that makes me feel discomfort about what I might be offering in return. What gift can I return?
To be continued…