Re-inhabiting the islands : senses of place in the poetry of Gary Snyder and Derek Walcott

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jason T. Hertz (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Laura Wright

Abstract: Building on the castaway narratives in both Gary Snyder‘s and Derek Walcott‘s poetry, I use Yann Martel‘s novel Life of Pi as a contemporary analogue for reading Snyder‘s Pacific journeys, in Regarding Wave and Turtle Island, and the quests of Omeros’ fisherman protagonist, Achille. In chapter one, I read Snyder‘s Regarding Wave, analyzing how he revised place archetypes from rocks to waves in order to initiate a more balanced culture in harmony with natural rhythms. Regarding Wave demonstrates the poet‘s biocentric and historiographical critique of linearity and towers, and it embodies his thematic and poetic identification with ?flows and spirals? (Snyder, Regarding Wave 24) because these symbols express a coherent sense of place in an archipelago, on Suwanose-Jima and Turtle Island. I argue that he fused the knowledge of a balanced animal-human household on Suwanose-Jima in the Ryukyu archipelago with Mahayana Buddhism for a vision of life as a bioregional member of the ?great / earth / sangha? (Turtle Island 73), providing a spiritual context for environmentalism and an environmental context for American Buddhism. In chapter two, I read Derek Walcott‘s Omeros as a poetic fusion of the creole present of St. Lucia within the ?official? (Walcott ?Muse? 49) archetypes of Western literature, mainly but not limited to Graeco-Roman mythology. Rather than assimilate St. Lucian culture into European literary forms, the long poem transposes and fuses the region‘s cultures and traditions for something new. I compare the two poets in chapter three through the New World poetic lens that Walcott develops in ?The Muse of History,? arguing that Walcott and Snyder negotiate the challenges of postcolonial and environmental poetry by writing intensely self-reflexive works that evoke the search for a healed sense of place. They draw their energy from the bitterness of a broken contract with nature to attempt to name the world again for everyone, and the way that they construe everyone is through the concept of a bioregion emanating in concentric ecological circles from their home ranges. Since they deal with ocean currents and watersheds, these communities are consequently transnational and hybrid.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
Bioregion, Castaway, Derek Walcott, Ecocriticism, Gary Snyder, Yann Martel
Snyder, Gary, 1930- -- Criticism and interpretation
Walcott, Derek -- Criticism and interpretation
Setting (Literature)

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