Wandering back into the Garden

In his Introduction to SWEENEY ASTRAY Seamus Heaney says that hisĀ “fundamental” connection to the Medieval poem is “topographical.” The poem is about the rage for autonomy — of the artist perhaps but more generally of the human self — but his own deepest connection he says is “topographical.”

Then it hit me: my first imaginings took shape in the deserts and mountains of California. Then I wandered in the midwest and eastern parts of the country for forty years. Now I’m back on the West coast.

During the wandering I connected in a visceral way with the Ch’an poets of ancient China and the classic haiku poets of Japan, who themselves were shaped by the Chinese poets. In terms made familiar by David Hinton, the two traditions, flowing into one great river of poetry, were the rivers-and-mountain tradition and the garden tradition. I have returned to the garden tradition in Portland OR. The Cascades influence our daily breath by contributing breezes that mix with the air from the Pacific ocean. The climate encourages gardeners.

Topography, yes.