Melissa Ha.


The hope of most people is to fit in; to fit in and remain an individual within the group. This hope, this desire, is something that many people struggle with on a daily basis. Fitting in and learning who a person is at their core is something every person can relate to and is one of the main themes running through The Dharma Bums, written by Jack Kerouac. The character of Ray Smith has an undying desire to find who he is and how Buddhism is a part of his life. Throughout the novel there is a struggle between Ray and his desire to follow the ways of Japhy Ryder while remaining his own Buddha. Within the novel are many scenes where Ray waits and follows Japhy’s decisions. While climbing mountains and playing yabyum, Ray commits to an action after being convinced by Japhy Ryder, than later questions his own actions. This is when Ray sees that he is following Japhy’s ways and not following his own path to Buddhism. Though there exists, many scenarios where this occurs, there are also places in the novel where Ray stands up for his beliefs and decides to do things his own way. Scenes where Ray makes the decision to take his own path to Buddhism and fulfillment. In one specific scene, Ray has the realization that he can be his own man and has everything that he needs; there is nothing more he could have to be happy. “Suddenly I was exhilarated to realize I was completely alone and safe and nobody was going to wake me up all night long. What an amazing revelation! And I had everything I needed right on my back…” (Kerouac 154) This enlightenment that Ray has is what the book is about; Ray finding who he is and losing all insecurities. It is a moment where Ray follows Buddhism to its entirety.

To make a poem great, or at the very least make a poem that is comprehensible, and one that is able to present an emotion of some sort, it is understood that the poem must demonstrate some visual aspects. Then not only does the reader have an image, but that image is connected to some memory or learned emotion that draws the reader in, connecting him to the writer. Within “Riprap,” by Gary Snyder, it is shown that a poem truly is riprap. A poem is images and fragments placed together, never at random, but by hand, with a purpose. Through the aesthetics of the poem, and the words throughout, we see and understand the path that Snyder takes us on. The lines of the poem are placed so it seems almost random, but reading the poem it is seen the lines are not at all random. The indentations and line changes represent the completion of thoughts, a phrase, or the end of a breath. The word choice is also extremely important throughout “Riprap”, as in the actual use of riprap to repair an eroding trail in nature. In the poem, Snyder states in numerous ways the random qualities of a poem and the universe all placed together. In lines nine and ten, Snyder uses the phrase “Cobble of milky way, straying planets.” He chooses to use things not typically referred to in the nature of a poem which makes “Riprap” greater. Cobble versus milky way and straying versus planets; Snyder chooses language that intrigues the reader. The vast space of the universe minimized to something the human mind can comprehend, as if this grand space could be located on planet earth, something we, as human beings, can relate to.

Of all the poems in the series Howl and Other Poems one stands out in my mind; Song. Ginsberg discusses the idea of love that we all treasure within ourselves. The feeling which without we feel incomplete. How such a strong emotion is our livelihood. We feel burdened by this emotion, yet it holds our world together. Ginsberg talks of this burden that lives within our dreams, imagination, and touches the human body completely. Then goes on to say how there is “no rest without love, no sleep without dreams of love”. Love is this song, this feeling that drives us to the passions of life and dreams. It is a part of our life that we must not and cannot be denied of or the result is to be mad. “The weight of the world is love…the weight is too heavy.” The driving force of the world is love and the weight of it is the journey, the quest that we are all on. The poem is the journey, the ever searching for this thing that we will not know until we have found it, and once we have we will then feel complete. Ginsberg says though that the weight is too heavy, and this is where I have to disagree. The weight of this emotion, this “song” is so great and we are burdened by it because of our imaginations and dreams. But because we are burdened by the search for love we are able to then enjoy the full happiness that comes from discovering this Utopia of sorts. We will then find what we have “always wanted, to return to the body where” we “were born”.

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