About Axehandles

Axehandles is a genealogy blog, one where I share my discoveries and processes.

The title and intention are inspired by the Gary Snyder poem of the same name, a reflection on how the past informs the present;  how the transmission of culture relies on the importance of memory and models, and the customs which connect them.

I’m fascinated by the contrasts, complements and overlaps between generations – how they define and replace one another.

Genealogy appeals to the geek in me who is ever exploring the juxtaposition between the ephemeral and eternal.

Axe Handles

One afternoon the last week in April
Showing Kai how to throw a hatchet
One-half turn and it sticks in a stump.
He recalls the hatchet-head
Without a handle, in the shop
And go gets it, and wants it for his own.
A broken-off axe handle behind the door
Is long enough for a hatchet,
We cut it to length and take it
With the hatchet head
And working hatchet, to the wood block.
There I begin to shape the old handle
With the hatchet, and the phrase
First learned from Ezra Pound
Rings in my ears!
“When making an axe handle
the pattem is not far off.”
And I say this to Kai
“Look: We’ll shape the handle
By checking the handle
Of the axe we cut with-“
And he sees. And I hear it again:
It’s in Lu Ji’s Wen Fu, fourth century 
A.D. “Essay on Literature”-in the 
Preface: “In making the handle Of an axe
By cutting wood with an axe 
The model is indeed near at hand.-
My teacher Shih-hsiang Chen 
Translated that and taught it years ago
And I see: Pound was an axe,
Chen was an axe, I am an axe 
And my son a handle, soon 
To be shaping again, model 
And tool, craft of culture,
How we go on.

– Gary Snyder

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s