By Gary Snyder

Lay down these words
Before your mind like rocks.
placed solid, by hands
In choice of place, set
Before the body of the mind
in space and time:
Solidity of bark, leaf, or wall
riprap of things:
Cobble of milky way,
straying planets,
These poems, people,
lost ponies with
Dragging saddles—
and rocky sure-foot trails.
The worlds like an endless
Game of Go.
             ants and pebbles
In the thin loam, each rock a word
a creek-washed stone
Granite: ingrained
with torment of fire and weight
Crystal and sediment linked hot
all change, in thoughts,
As well as things.

Summary of Riprap

  • Popularity of “Riprap”: Written by Gary Snyder, a great American poet, imagist, essayist, environmentalist, and teacher, this beautiful piece first appeared in the collection of his poems, Riprap and Cold Mountains. Interestingly, the book first appeared in Japan back in 1959 instead of in any English-speaking country. This points to the global acclaim it would have amassed at that time though it became popular quite late. The poem underlines different metaphysical themes through incomplete and broken images. Herein lies the beauty of the poem.
  • Riprap” As a Representative of Representation of Riprap World: The poem beautifully underlines the title through broken verses saying that rocks and words are alike and the mind could go for both as they are scattered. The same is the case of body, mind, space, and time as all have scattered ideas, scattered things, and people. This unruliness of riprap is clear in the universes, in the world, in the world of animals, in the world of stones, and even in dimensions. Everywhere things are scattered like the pebbles or the other heavenly bodies, and when changes come, they come in things and creep into thoughts. That is why the world seems riprap with ants and pebbles representing the same thing.
  • Major Themes in “Riprap”: Unruliness, imagism, and linguistic representation of things are major themes of the poem. The unruliness of the world lies in words as well as things. It is clear from the pebbles lying on the walking path, or the names of the things, or the images that the things and names represent. This linguistic representation of things shows how words form the mental images of things, including heavenly bodies, animate things, and daily objects, and The poet wants us to understand this representation through words. That is why the world of poems, the loss of ponies, and even the foot trails have words to represent them and make or create images in your minds.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Riprap

Gary Snyder uses various literary devices to make his poem memorable and meaningful. Some of the major literary devices are as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /a/ in “As well as things” and the sound of /o/ in “In the thin loam, each rock a word.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /p/ in “poems, people.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /b/ and /d/ in “Before the body of the mind” and the sound of /l/ in “Cobble of milky way.”
  4. Enjambment: It is a device in which the meanings of verse roll over to the next without having any pause or punctuation mark. This poem shows the use of enjambment, such as;

with torment of fire and weight
Crystal and sediment linked hot
all change, in thoughts,
As well as things

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Gary Snyder used imagery in this poem, such as “Cobble of milky way”, “In the thin loam, each rock a word” and “Crystal and sediment linked hot.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet used different implicit metaphors such as words compared to things and planets that are straying like animals.
  3. Simile: It is a figure of speech for direct comparison to understand the meanings of a thing being compared. For example, the poet has used a simile saying, “The worlds like an endless / four dimensional.”
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols, such as words, rocks, hands, space, and time to show the unruliness of the world.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Riprap

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows good use of formal and poetic diction.
  2. Free Verse: It means to use free verse that has no rhyme scheme, rhythm, or meter. This poem is a free verse poem.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. This is a single-stanza poem having twenty-five verses.
  4. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows an inscrutable, loving, and yet dry tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote when talking about the change or transformation in the world.

Granite: ingrained
with torment of fire and weight
Crystal and sediment linked hot
all change, in thoughts,
As well as things.