3 June 2015

The man pulling radishes

     The man pulling radishes
Pointed my way
     With a radish.  
Can you imagine the situation? the narrator of the poem is hiking along a road. He stops to ask for directions. And the fellow working in the field wavs his radish — it’s a daikon, one of those long skinny Japanese radishes — and says, “Oh, it’s about four miles down the road on the left”…  
One of the pleasures of this poem [by Kobayashi Issa] is that it is written from the point of view of the traveler. And it is in the past tense. So, saying the poem, we are in the mind of the traveler after he has received directions from the farmer. One imagines a slight smile on his face as he records to himself his own observation of the farmer’s small, revelatory gesture. It is the smile the poem gives us. And, as readers, we are in a position to notice that the traveler is doing what travelers do, noticing and telling afterwards. It is famously, one of the reasons for travel: to be given the fresh pair of eyes that an uprooting from our normal routine gives us. That is, the traveler in the poem is behaving exactly like a traveler in the same way that the farmer is behaving exactly like a farmer. Everyone, the poem observes, is subsumed to his element, and metaphorical contexts of this observation are rootedness and uprootedness and also the seeking out of direction 
on teaching poetry Robert Hass

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