Reading in English Literature
23 September 2009
Life is but Simple?
Gary Snyder’s haiku “After weeks of watching the roof leak” indicates that problems seeming to be complicated may have very simple solution; discovering an answer is what appears to be distressful. Writing his poem in a very unconventional form, Snyder intensifies his substance somehow visually. The unique form also intends the readers to draw a mental picture which helps to sympathize with the poetic speaker of the poem.
The poem starts by mentioning about a long time passing and, at the same time, visualizing the fact by extending the line length. Snyder put nine syllables in the first line which is very long compared to the standard form of haiku; usually haiku follow a pattern of five, seven, and five syllables. This may be a wrong form, but actually it appears to be appropriate for this poem because it helps emphasize the long term. By reading the oversized line, the reader can catch the continuous observation in many ways.
The lengthy line is followed by a curious white space which is a brilliant device to extend the waiting time period. The purposive blank offers a brief pause, and the gifted speaker is provided an even longer time. Finally, the speaker discovers the solution and settles the problem. The somehow-short five syllable line indicates how quickly the trouble has been solved.
At the end Snyder seems to figure out the original line length of haiku; the last line of the poem contains seven syllables which is perfectly normal. But it is a late discovery resembling the late repair of the roof. The solution to the roof turns out to be very easy. Moving a single board, neither strenuous nor time-worthy, is the result of all the waiting. And showing how simple the solution is, Snyder cleverly suggests that a seemingly difficult life is actually a simple one like moving a single board from a complex roof. Thus he wants to encourage his...