Universal Language: Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island

Universal Language: Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island

Language itself is universal. Although we may not all speak the same form or type, we all have a language. Some may have a mixture of multiple languages and that is what they consider their own. Just because I don’t understand someone else’s language doesn’t mean that theirs is wrong. I find the idea of language, words, and grammar to be extremely fascinating, especially when it came to Turtle Island. The one thing that every single person on this earth has in common is that we all live here. We all inhabit the earth and its materials and sadly we are all single handedly destroying it. Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island is his form of how humans and animals could hopefully at some point live together happily and comfortably.

The language that Snyder uses is simple yet complex and his reasoning behind it is universal. The idea that we can live in the world that we do while not killing it seems so easy when reading through the poems on each page of his collection. The book involves every single possible form of language all saying the same thing but differently. He did this so that way everyone could understand it, everyone from children, to parents, to ancestors in every culture. Everyone needed to grasp the greater meaning behind these poems and he made that possible.

Sabri-Tuzcu: Unsplash

We as human beings have the ability to understand the difficulty behind knowing the truth and the facts. and we all have the flawed characteristic of denial. Luckily we have people and authors like Gary Snyder, Rachel Carson, and Wendell Berry who have their eyes wide open when it comes to the destruction we have set upon our earth. These authors write about what is real in our world and what is happening to it because of human beings actions. But for people to listen to what they are actually putting down on the page the language has to be there. Open, front and center, and easily comprehended.

Pine Tree Tops (33)

in the blue night

frost haze, the sky glows

with the moon

pine tree tops

bend snow-blue, fade

into sky, frost, starlight.

the creak of boots.

rabbit tracks, deer tracks,

what do we know.

This poem uses short words to describe a setting around a person walking in the woods. The elements of the earth surround this person in such beauty. The earth floor has yet to be harmed by anything except for the natural creatures that live there. The last line of the poem states, “what do we know” as if it were a question but instead a statement. What do we know, everything we know is that the most beautiful things are earth are the things we as humans rarely get to see.

Two Fawns that Didn’t see the Light this Spring (58)

A friend in a tipi in the

Northern Rockies went out

hunting white tail with a

.22 and creeped up on a few

day-bedded, sleeping, shot

what he thought was a buck.

“it was a doe, and she was

carrying a fawn.”

He cured the meat without

salt; sliced it following the

grain.

 

A friend in the Northern Sierra

hit a doe with her car. It

walked out calmly in the lights,

“and when we butchered her

there was a fawn-about so long-

to tiny-but all formed and right.

It had spots. Ant the little

hooves were soft and white.”

This poem is a sad truth about life and death. We as humans have the right to kills animals for food but only under the rules that have been determined in each state. Using words like butchered, calmly, sliced, and soft are completely contradicting themselves because of the two opposite common uses of them. When Snyder uses these words together it shows both the harsh truth and the sad truth behind what we as humans do to animals whether it is on purpose or on accident.

Turtle Island uses language to portray the multiple sides of nature, human beings, and our harm to earth and its living creatures.

 

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