Meditation at Lagunitas
by Robert Hass
Meditation at Lagunitas Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (line)
Meditation at Lagunitas (title)
The title is the only reference to a place with a proper name in the poem. It helps let us know that the poem is a pastoral, or a celebration of nature. A "meditation" is a kind of deep spiritual or philosophical reflection, and "Lagunitas" is a cool woodsy spot in northern California, with lakes and forests a’plenty. But, if you didn’t know the title of this poem, would you think that it is inspired by a specific place?
That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. (lines 4-8)
The speaker makes fun of the philosophical thinkers who say that particular things are not as good as general ideas. The imagery of the woodpecker is super-specific, even down to the "sculpted" shape of the trunk that it pecks into. The Platonic philosopher would say that the perfect, original idea of the woodpecker is "lost," which the speaker jokingly calls "tragic." But, the woodpecker doesn’t seem to mind its tragic situation very much. Its colorful, "clownish" face is a total contrast to the grim, sad view of the philosophers. It’s as if the bird says, "Lighten up! You guys think too much. You should get in on some of this ‘sculpted trunk’ action. It’s pretty sweet."
Or the other notion that, because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies. (lines 8-11)
The "other notion" is that words don’t actually refer to or "correspond" with real things in nature. So, when we say "blackberry," we’re not actually talking about the sweet little things that grow on bushes; we’re talking about some perfect idea that doesn’t exist in nature. By calling the word blackberry a "bramble," though, the speaker uses poetry to connect words with nature. The real blackberry bush is a "bramble," and so is the word. The two seem to "correspond," right?