march 31/BIKERUN

bike: 10 minute warm-up
run: 3.25 miles
outside: wind + thin sheet of ice

Wanted to run outside today, but it snowed and sleeted yesterday and it hasn’t warmed enough to melt yet. I don’t want to fall and get an injury. Speaking of injuries, just watched a YouTube video with one of my favorite triathletes, Lucy Charles-Barclay. She has a small fracture on the inside of her femoral-something-or-other (I remember the femoral part, but forgot the rest). She doesn’t know yet how long it will take to heal or if she can do any exercise. She mentioned how she’s always used exercise as a way to cope with any stress/anxiety she is feeling. Now, she can’t and she’s unsure of how how to handle it. I remember feeling this way with my first “big” injury. It sucked, but then I started memorizing poems and I felt better. That injury was when I really discovered how much I love poetry.

I haven’t figured out what to watch now that I’m done with Dickinson, so I watched a random running race while I biked. Then I listened to an old playlist while I ran. Felt pretty good. Didn’t think about anything except how much time I had left. 30 minutes on the treadmill is a long time for me. Very tedious.

I guess I thought about at least one other thing: how much I was feeling the lyrics of Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls, which was on my playlist. I remember liking that song at the end of high school, then driving with a future roommate to see them perform at Luther College my freshman year of college. I always appreciated the lyrics, but they didn’t really mean anything to me, more like empty clichés or slogans or something someone else would do. Now I find myself living (or trying to live those) words in my work and my daily practices:

There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
Closer I am to fine

I like the idea of more (possible) answers + crooked lines + not trying to KNOW or find the answers + the idea of getting closer (but never quite getting) to fine + fine (not success or achievement or even happiness) as the goal.

Found this poem on twitter this morning. Wow!

I Wonder If I Need the Rapture or If I Could Just
Swallow A Catastrophe and Call It Good / Kelli Russell Agodon

Find me at a party socializing with someone’s cat.
Pull a decade from my dress and find what’s left
of the bliss sewn in the hem.

In a perfect world, we would slow dance
with someone we love, we would hold childhood
in our palm and call it a foal.

What we love frolics with its mother, while we ache
for our sins. Walk through a field without disturbing
a spider’s web. Turn off the news

when a javelin is thrown through the screen
into our heart. Yes, you are worried–fear
has been our blanket for years.

Yes, you are home alone so your mind
is cashing in every anxiety chip. Bet on less.
Forget the radishes at the store and be joyful

that you did. There are too many false fangs
at the necks of the ones we love. Bite lighter.
Use your lips. Know the lightening

you believed would kill you didn’t. Not every wolf
harms, many just want to find their way
back into the forests we keep cutting down.

march 30/BIKE

bike: 30 minutes
outside: rain/snow mix

Decided to skip the run today and only bike while I watched the final episode of Dickinson. Sad to see this series end, so glad I stuck with it after almost stopping watching it after an episode. I liked how the creator, Alena Smith, ended the series with lots of hope, a greater appreciation of Death as necessary part of the cycle of life, and an emphasis on ED’s famous white dress as central to her empowerment. I didn’t agree with all of it, especially the choice to use the song, “Gynmnopédie No. 1,” which I connect with the movie, My Dinner with Andre and the “Community” episode. I like the song, but not for the ending of this series. But, who cares? I decided early on in this show that I didn’t want to be too critical of the show — to judge it by what I might have done, or dismiss it as too modern. Instead, I took it as one possible way in which we could imagine ED’s world. I’m going to miss Emily’s mom. This show made me a big fan of Jane Krakowski. And, I’ll miss Lavinia too. Of course, Emily was great and it was fun to see how her poems were invoked.

I’m pretty sure I watched every episode while biking in the basement. Now I’ll have to find something new to watch.

One of the poems featured in this last episode is “I started Early — Took my Dog.” I thought I had posted it on this log already, but I can’t seem to find it. So, here it is:

I started Early — Took my Dog / Emily Dickinson

I started Early – Took my Dog –
And visited the Sea –
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me –

And Frigates – in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands –
Presuming Me to be a Mouse –
Aground – opon the Sands –

But no Man moved Me – till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe –
And past my Apron – and my Belt
And past my Boddice – too –

And made as He would eat me up –
As wholly as a Dew
Opon a Dandelion’s Sleeve –
And then – I started – too –

And He – He followed – close behind –
I felt His Silver Heel
Opon my Ancle – Then My Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl –

Until We met the Solid Town –
No One He seemed to know –
And bowing – with a Mighty look –
At me – The Sea withdrew –

Oh, how I would love to start early and take my dog to the sea! All of my reading of Alice Oswald and the sea is making me want to spend some time on a coast.

march 29/RUN

3.5 miles
river road, south/winchell trail/river road, north/edmund
39 degrees / feels like 30
wind: 20 mph

Overcast, windy, cold. Not too many people out on the trails. Ran south on the paved path, then a little on the Winchell trail — dirt, then rubbled asphalt, then paved, back up on the river road trail, through the tunnel of trees, then over to Edmund. Everything bare and brown and looking like November. Very pleasing to my eyes. Soft and dull, not sharp or crisp. Down on the Winchell Trail, I was closer to the river, but forgot to look. Maybe it was because I was too focused on the wind and reciting the poem by Christine Rossetti that I memorized this morning. I was reminded of it when I found it on my entry for March 29, 2020.

Who Has Seen the Wind?/ CHRISTINA ROSSETTI

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

It was really fun to recite (just in my head) as I ran. It’s iambic, mostly trimeter (I think?). I also recited the opening to Richard Siken’s “Lovesong of the Square Root of Negative One:

“I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves tremble but I am invisible.”

Before I went for my run, I spent more time with Alice Oswald. Here are a few bits from an interview she did in 2016 for Falling Awake:

I frequently get told I’m a nature poet living in a rural idyll, but just like the city, the country is full of anxious, savage people. The hedges seem so much stronger than the humans that you feel slightly imperilled and exposed, as if, if you stopped moving for a minute the nettles would just move in.

I think about this idea of the vegetation taking over when humans (by the gorge, Minneapolis Parks’ workers) stop managing and maintaining it. Creeping vines, tall grass, wandering branches, crumbling asphalt. I see these things all the time and often imagine how the green things might consume us when we stop paying attention.

I’m mostly interested in life and vitality, but you can only see that by seeing its opposite. I love erosion: I like the way that the death of one thing is the beginning of something else.

Erosion, things decomposing, returning, recycling. I’m drawn to noticing these things as I loop around the gorge.

It’s good to remember how to forget. I’m interested in the oral tradition: what keeps the poems alive is a little forgetting. In Homer you get the sense that anything could happen because the poet might not remember.

I like the idea of finding a balance, where I remember some things and forget others, or I forget some things so I can remember other things.

Poetry is not about language but about what happens when language gets impossible.

I like the idea of things being impossible to ever fully achieve, where no words can ever fully capture/describe what something it. When language is impossible, it’s possible to keep imagining/dreaming up new meanings.

I’m interested in how many layers you can excavate in personality. At the top it’s all quite named. But you go down through the animal and the vegetable and then you get to the mineral. At that level of concentration you can respond to the non-human by half turning into it.

This line about getting down to the mineral, reminded me of some of Oswald’s words in Dart and Lorine Niedecker’s words in “Lake Superior”:

from Dart / Alice Oswald

where’s Ernie? Under the ground

where’s Redver’s Webb? Likewise.

Tom, John and Solomon Warne, Dick Jorey, Lewis

Some are photos, others dust.
Heading East to West along the tin lodes,
80 foot under Hepworthy, each with a tallow candle in
his hat.

Till rain gets into the stone,
which washes them down to the valley bottoms
and iron, lead, zinc, copper calcite
and gold, a few flakes of it
getting pounded between the pebbles in the river.

from “Lake Superior” / Lorine Niedecker

In every part of every living thing
is stuff that once was rock

And the idea of moving through layers, reminds me of Julian Spahr and their poem that moves through layers, first out, then in:

poemwrittenafterseptember 11, 2001 / Julian Spahr

as everyone with lungs breathes the space between the hands and the space around the hands and the space of the room and the space of the building that surrounds the room and the space of the neighborhoods nearby and the space of the cities and the space of the regions and the space of the nations and the space of the continents and islands and the space of the oceans and the space of the troposphere and the space of the stratosphere and the space of the mesosphere in and out.

In this everything turning and small being breathed in and out by everyone with lungs during all the moments.

Then all of it entering in and out.

The entering in and out of the space of the mesosphere in the entering in and out of the space of the stratosphere in the entering in and out of the space of the troposphere in the entering in and out of the space of the oceans in the entering in and out of the space of the continents and islands in the entering in and out of the space of the nations in the entering in and out of the space of the regions in the entering in and out of the space of the cities in the entering in and out of the space of the neighborhoods nearby in the entering in and out of the space of the building in the entering in and out of the space of the room in the entering in and out of the space around the hands in the entering in and out of the space between the hands.

How connected we are with everyone.

The space of everyone that has just been inside of everyone mixing inside of everyone with nitrogen and oxygen and water vapor and argon and carbon dioxide and suspended dust spores and bacteria mixing inside of everyone with sulfur and sulfuric acid and titanium and nickel and minute silicon particles from pulverized glass and concrete.

How lovely and how doomed this connection of everyone with lungs.

I’ve been wanting to do something with layers and the gorge. What form might it take?

march 28/RUN

5.3 miles
franklin loop
28 degrees

Sunny, calm, mostly quiet. Turned onto a street at the same time as another runner on the opposite sidewalk. Both us running almost the same speed for at least a minute. Was he trying to race me? Not sure. I was hoping one of us would be faster so I could avoid being too focused on him. Somewhere in the next few blocks, I started pulling ahead. Did he slow down or turn onto another street?

Ran with my shadow. Felt tired after running 4 miles yesterday and almost 5 the day before. Remembered to notice the river: lots of slushy dollops of foam. I watched it moving slowing downstream as it crossed under the lake street bridge. To keep myself steady, I recited my lines from Emily Dickinson, “Life is but life/and death but death/Bliss is but bliss/and breath but breath.”

Heard several woodpeckers drumming on dead wood. Thought about my mannequin poem and figured out a possible line in which I replace “the mannequins” with “the women and children.” I like it, but I’m not quite sure if it works. Does it give the wrong tone?

Still reading through Dart and thinking about Alice Oswald’s work. Here’s another poem from her that I’d like to read through many more times. I want to think more about what she means by: “to be brief/to be almost actual”


I who can blink
to break the spell of daylight

and what a sliding screen between worlds 
is a blink

I “who can hear the last three seconds in my head 
but the present is beyond me 

in this tiny moment of reflexion
I want to work out what it’s like to descend
out of the dawn’s mind

and find a leaf and fasten the known to the unknown 
with a liquid cufflink
                     and then unfasten

to be brief

to be almost actual

oh pristine example
of claiming a place on the earth
only to cancel

march 27/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
16 degrees / feels like 6

Brrr. I wore almost all the layers today: 2 pairs of running tights, long-sleeved shirt, black 3/4s pullover, pink jacket, black vest, 2 pairs of gloves, winter cap, buff, 1 pair of socks. The only thing missing: hand warmers, mittens, and an extra pair of socks. Like most cold days, it looked (and sounded) warm. Bright sun and singing birds. Because of the cold, it wasn’t that crowded on the trails. I think I only saw 1 bike, some walkers. Was “morning-ed!” by Mr. Morning! and Santa Claus. Nice. Noticed several planes in the sky. With the clear blue and bright sun, they were white smudges, looking almost like the faint trace of the moon during the day. I saw them out of the corner of my eye, but they kept disappearing in my central vision.

the river!

The best thing I noticed today was the river. It was mostly open, but the banks were crusty again, and there were small chunks of ice everywhere. Slushy. Yesterday the wind was moving with the river, pulling it faster south. Today, the wind and water were at odds. The river was moving, but just barely, and away from the wind. Most of its movement was in the sparkling sun bouncing off the gentle ripples. Beautiful.

Saw my shadow off to the side, then in front. Heard my zipper pull clanging against my vest. I don’t remember smelling anything — no, that’s wrong. As I ran by Black Coffee, I smelled the fresh waffles.

a word to remember in the summer

petrichor (pe TRI cor): a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. Found on a twitter thread about favorite words rarely heard.

Love this poem, and the idea of creating a list or lists with “More Of This, Please” as the title!


In grad school I had a writing teacher who’d completely cream my essays.
Cross-outs and tracked changes. He took me at my word
when I said I wanted to get better. But when he liked something,
he’d point to what was working: More of this please.
Did I mention he was British? This is important because lately,
whenever something is really working, I tend to think to myself,
in a British accent: More of this, please. A lunch date turned dinner date
with a dreamboat who is slightly embarrassed his eyes water in cold weather.
Him looking like he’s tearing up at Shake Shack. More of this, please.
A toddler turning got me at the park holding her hair tie, asking me
to fix her ponytail. Her grandmother nodding to go right ahead, my hands
collecting wisps of yellow. More of this, please. Any time my family is honest
about mental health, what my grandparents were up against. This.
Cough-drop wrappers that say, Bet on Yourself. Pop-up concerts in the city.
Stevie Wonder playing Songs in the Key of Life at 10 AM on a Monday,
hundreds of people stopping mid commute in button-ups and blazers
belting out every word to “Sir Duke” and “Isn’t She Lovely,” saying, “My boss
is just going to have to understand!” The subway tiles under Carnegie Hall
with names of performers who played there: Lena Horne, September 29,
1947. The Beatles, February 12, 1964. Dance classes with live drummers.
An editor saying, I’ll pass this on,” instead of, “I’ll pass on this.”
A stranger falling asleep on my shoulder for several stops. Staring at dates
in authors’ bios: Ruth Stone, 1915-2011. Larry Levis, 1946-1996.
Recommitting to living as much as I can. Realizing the dash between the year
you’re born and the year you die is smaller than your smaller fingernail.
It’s smaller than a strand of saffron in a bottle the size of a thimble
in the spice shop across the street.

This poem is in The Sun Magazine. I found all these wonderful quotations about water there: Sunbeams

march 26/RUN

4.8 miles
Veteran’s Home Loop
22 degrees / feels like 11
wind: 14 mph / 22 mph gusts

Sunny and cold and windy. Wore lots of layers: vest, jacket, long-sleeved shirt, tights, gloves, buff, winter cap. My watched died 1 1/2 miles in so I don’t know exactly how far I ran or how fast. It doesn’t really matter. Ran to the falls, over the creek, under the arbor, behind John Stevens’ House, across the tall bridge, up to the bluff, beside the river, through the edge of turkey hollow, past Beckettwood with its bright red sign that looks newly painted (or brighter in the early spring sun). A nice run. I didn’t feel fantastic the entire time, but not miserable either. And now, being done, I feel glad to have gone outside in this blustery weather.

Thinking about this line I reread this morning before my run:

your eyes are made mostly of movement

Dart / Alice Oswald (45)

I deduced to make this my task for noticing the world on my run today: What is moving on my run (besides me)?

10 Things I Noticed: Movement

  1. swirling leaves (seen)
  2. a woodpecker’s bill rapidly pecking on hollow wood (heard)
  3. the rush of fast-moving air on my arm (felt)
  4. Minnehaha Creek bouncing off of the limestone ledge then falling over the falls (seen)
  5. the river moving swiftly downstream under the Ford Bridge, encouraged by the wind (seen)
  6. dead leaves in a tree, shaking (heard)
  7. a shadow barely creeping over the creek under the tall bridge (seen)
  8. a black truck crossing the bridge then turning right (seen)
  9. many runners, including one moving slightly slower than me over by the gorge, as I ran on Edmund (seen)
  10. a flag at half mast (for Madeline Albright) waving gently (I expected it to be flapping in this wind, but it wasn’t) (seen)

No flashes. And the shadows I did see, tree trunks, lamp posts, stop signs, were all still. No darting squirrels, or dancing water, or soaring birds.

One other imagine I’d like to remember: the big rock that stands next to the lonely and inviting bench — the one I always wanted to stop at but never did during my early pandemic runs — looked like it had inched closer to the path. This rock is BIG so this is very unlikely. A closer look: its shadow was creeping onto the trail.

Back to movement. Here are two poems that fit with the theme of movement and eyes. One of them I read today, the other I posted a few months ago:

The Rock that Is Not a Rabbit/ Corey Marks

The rock that is not a rabbit suns itself
in the field, its brown coat that isn’t fur
furred with light. The rock that isn’t a rabbit
would be warm to a palm but wouldn’t
quicken or strain from touch. It doesn’t ache
with hunger or pine with rabbit-lust,
doesn’t breathe the world in, translating
scent into some rabbit understanding.
The world is beyond its understanding.
And yet the rock that is not a rabbit will
outlast the hawk banking above, the fox
sloughing free of its den, the wheel nicking
off the road to disturb the gravel berm,
the mower coughing up the neighbor’s yard.
Even so, its ears fold back against its body
as if to make itself small, a secret,
though when a breeze disorders the grass,
the rock’s stillness appears like wild motion.

Had to look up berm:


a flat strip of land, raised bank, or terrace bordering a river or canal.

a path or grass strip beside a road.

an artificial ridge or embankment, e.g., as a defense against tanks.”berms of shoveled earth”

Saccadic Masking/ Paige Lewis from Space Struck

a phenomenon where the brain blocks out blurred images created by movement of the eye

All constellations are organisms
and all organisms are divine
and unfixed. I am spending 
my night in the kitchen. There
is blood in the batter—dark
strands stretch like vocal 
cords telling me I am missing
so much with these blurred
visions: a syringe flick, the tremor
of my wrist—raised veins silked
green. I have seen the wings
of a purple finch wavering
around its body, stuck, burned
to the grill of my car, which means
I have failed to notice its flight—
a lesson on infinities, a lesson I 
am trying to learn. I am trying.
Tell me, how do I steady my gaze
when everything I want is motion?

march 24/RUN

3.1 miles
austin, mn
35 degrees

note: writing this one day late

Ran with Scott in Austin. Forgot to bring my running tights. This might have been the coldest temp I’ve run in with bare legs. It wasn’t too bad. Don’t remember much about my run except for discussing how to help aging parents.

Anything else? Gloomy, windy, some mist. Spring decided not to stay; winter’s back.

Carl Phillips is wonderful:

Sing a Darkness/Carl Phillips

Slowly the fog did what fog does, eventually: it lifted, the way
veils tend to at some point in epic
verse so that the hero can
see the divinity at work constantly behind
all things mortal, or that’s
the idea, anyway, I’m not saying I do or don’t
believe that, I’m not even sure that belief can change
any of it, at least in terms of the facts of how,
moment by moment, any life unfurls, we can
call it fate or call it just what happened, what
happens, while we’re busy trying to describe
or explain what happens,
how a mimosa tree caught growing close beside a house
gets described as “hugging the house,”
for example, as if an impulse to find affection everywhere
made us have to put it there,
a spell against indifference,
as if that were the worst thing—
is it?
Isn’t it?
The fog lifted.
It was early spring, still.
The dogwood brandished those pollen-laden buds
that precede a flowering. History. What survives, or doesn’t.
How the healthiest huddled, as much at least
as was possible, more closely together,
to give the sick more room. How they mostly all died, all the same.
I was nowhere I’d ever been before.
Nothing mattered.
I practiced standing as still as I could, for as long as I could.

The lifting of the veil reminds me of a quote from Alice Oswald that I read the other day on twitter:

“The Greeks thought of language as a veil which protects us from the brightness of things, I think poetry is a tear in that veil.” —Alice Oswald


Of course, the tearing of the veil reminds me of Mary Oliver’s The Leaf and the Cloud and her discussion of the renting of the veil.

march 23/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
run: 1 mile
outside: rain, snow, wind, 32 degrees

Watched the second to last episode of Dickinson while I biked, then ran a mile while listening to Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” (which I heard on The Current yesterday and thought it would be fun to run to. Mostly, it was). The Dickinson episode was titled, “Grief is a Mouse,” and, among other things, was about Emily (mother) imaging that a mouse in her bedroom was her dead sister Lavinia. She tells a story about how Lavinia loved mice, keeping them as pets — feeding them cheese and naming them after her favorite fairy tale characters. Then she talks to the mouse-as-Lavinia and says goodbye to her. I liked this sweet explanation for why Emily (poet) might have written a poem titled, “Grief is a Mouse,” although I might also like not having an explanation for why she chose a mouse to describe grief. It reminds me of an essay I read about Emily Dickinson last year:

Whenever I introduce Dickinson’s poems into my classes, I always begin by doing a version of an exercise that I learned from one of my great mentors, Carolyn Williams, and that has long circulated through a community of people who work on 19th-century poetics. Over the years it has come to be called “Dickinson Mad-Libs.” The way it works is this: I choose a line, a stanza, or a whole poem, and I take out some of its words (usually nouns and adjectives, but sometimes verbs as well), and I simply leave blanks where those words were. Then I ask the students to fill in the blanks. I tend to switch up which poems I use, even though I know several that work particularly well. I’ll never forget the time I used “Grief is a ________.” 

Students go ahead and put in the blanks what is expected: Grief is a pain, Grief is a bitch. The ones who want to take imaginative leaps deliver up: Grief is a thunderstorm, Grief is a tidal wave. But I can pretty much guarantee that no matter how many budding poets you have in a class, nobody who hasn’t already read Dickinson’s poem would ever write the phrase the way she wrote it.

There are lots of fascinating conversations to have about what, exactly, Dickinson might have meant when she wrote “Grief is a mouse,” but the more interesting point, to me at least, is simply that Dickinson was a master of unexpected, yet absolutely perfect, word choice.

The Poets (We Think) We Know: Emily Dickinson

Before I went downstairs to exercise, I worked on my second read-through of Dart. I’m making note of all the voices that appear. It’s helpful as a way of tracing how these voices flow from one to the next, sometimes easily, more often as interruptions. In focusing on these voices, I’m starting to see the tensions over the language used to describe how the river works, especially in terms of order and control. I’ll have to write more later, when I have time.

Here is one of the poems read in Dickinson (season 3, ep 9):

These are the days when Birds come back— / Emily Dickinson

These are the days when Birds come back—
A very few—a Bird or two—
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies resume
The old—old sophistries of June—
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh fraud that cannot cheat the Bee—
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief.

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear—
And softly thro’ the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf.

Oh sacrament of summer days,
Oh Last Communion in the Haze—
Permit a child to join.

Thy sacred emblems to partake—
Thy consecrated bread to take
And thine immortal wine!

march 22/RUN

3.5 miles
3.5 mile loop*
40 degrees
light rain

*Couldn’t think of a more clever name right now for this 3.5 mile loop: head to the river, turn right, run past the oak savanna, the 38th street steps, the lonely bench, the curved retaining wall, to the 44th street parking lot. Loop around the lot, then head north on the river road. Keep going past the ravine and the welcoming oaks. Run down into the tunnel of trees, above the floodplain forest, beside the old stone steps. Just before double bridge north, turn right and head over to edmund boulevard. Run south to 34th st, head east, then south on 45th st.

Ran a little earlier this morning to get ahead of the rain. Made it about 20 minutes before it began. Light rain I could barely distinguish from my sweat at first. Then a little heavier. I could hear the light thumps of the rain drops hitting the hard, barely thawed, earth. I could see the rain making a fine mist or a thin veil of fog. The sky was gray, everything else brown and dull yellow. Extra dreamy and surreal.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the drumming of a woodpecker: not rapid and insistent, but sporadic and dull. Does that mean the wood was more hollow or less?
  2. the oak savanna was all yellow and brown, no snow in sight
  3. all the walking trails were clear of ice and open!
  4. ahead of me I thought I noticed a man walking with a dog. As I got closer, they were gone. Had I imagined it? No, I saw a flash of them below me on the steep, dirt trail down to the savanna
  5. again, ahead of me I thought I saw two people walking near the 38th steps who then disappeared. Had I just mistaken the trashcans for people (which I do frequently)? No, as I passed the steps, there they were, entering the paved part of the Winchell Trail
  6. several walkers on the Winchell Trail
  7. bright car headlights cutting through the gloom, passing through the bare branches on the other side of the ravine
  8. a man in bright blue shorts and matching shirt with sunglasses (?), running with a dog, or was it 2? We passed each other twice
  9. Mr. Morning! greeted me. I’m pretty sure I responded with my own “morning” instead of “good morning!” (which is my usual response)
  10. the ravine was partly clear, partly covered in snow. I tried to listen for the water flowing down to the river, but I could only hear the rain and the car wheels and the clanging of my zipper pull

Woke up this morning to an acceptance for one of my poems for the What You See is What You Get Issue in Hearth & Coffin Literary Journal! They didn’t accept my mannequin one, but another favorite about swimming in lake nokomis and seeing more than I wanted. That poem, “there is a limit,” began on this log, in an entry on june 1, 2018:

After finishing the run, I decided to swim. The water was warm which is amazing considering the lake still had ice at the end of April! Guess all those 90+ degree days really warmed it up fast. The water was also clear. Freak-me-out clear. I could see the bottom and the algae plants growing up from the bottom and the fish swimming below me. I have decided that it is better to swim without being able to see what I’m swimming with. If I can’t see it, I can pretend it’s not there, which is probably what it would like too. The coolest part of the clear water was seeing all the shafts of light piercing through the lake. 3, 4, maybe more. I also liked being able to look at the bottom in the beach area–I think I counted 5 or 6 hair bands, lost to their owners forever. I might have swam longer but there were a few school groups at the beach and I was concerned that some of the kids would mess with my stuff. I couldn’t tell if they were in elementary or middle school, but they sure knew how to yell out “fuck” at the top of their lungs. A kid that will brazenly yell out “fuck this” or “fuck you” or preface many words with “fucking” on a school trip might find it amusing to throw my towel in the water or take my sweatshirt. But getting back to how clear the water was, part of me wishes I had spent more time exploring underwater and studying the bottom–how deep it gets, what’s really down there. But, another part of me–perhaps a bigger part–likes the idea of keeping it a mystery. Knowing more might make me more anxious or disappointed in how un-mysterious it is.

Speaking of swimming, Alice Oswald is a river swimmer! Very cool. She’s written poems about swimming, and discussed it in several of the interviews I’ve read. I’d post more about that now, but I want to discuss what I thought about as I ran: the poet in the poem. In yesterday’s log entry, I posed these questions:

I wonder, is there room in Oswald’s democratic stories for her own efforts at smashing nostalgia and noticing from different perspectives? How would that alter the poem to include the voice of the observer-participant or participant-observer? How might it look if the author’s voice wasn’t absent, but made only one among many, all having value?

log entry / 21 march 2022

Just before heading out the door, I read this quotation from Oswald in an interview about her collection, Woods, etc.:

I almost feel that I am not part of it. I believe the poet shouldn’t be in the poem at all except as a lens or as ears.

I also read a bit of the transcript from David Nieman’s interview with Oswald. He suggests: “It feels like all through the discussions you’ve had on your own writing, it seems like there’s a way you’re trying to break out and away from you, break out and away from the self….” Her response:

AO: I suppose I was very excited right from the start to feel that Homer doesn’t necessarily come from one’s self. For me, when I’m thinking about the difference between Epic and Lyric, you can define them in many ways and Aristotle had his particular definition, but for me, what is interesting is that it’s not necessarily owned oneself. That means it escapes from the solipsism that creeps into lyric poetry that you can become stifled by one mood, one point of view. For me, that extends to thinking itself. That’s why I have an anxiety about thinking because it feels as if it’s hitting one person’s skull, whereas Homer’s poems, because they have simply been eroded into their way of being by being passed from one person to another, they somehow embody a multiple mind and they move out of the clouding and confinement of one person’s point of view. That’s, I presume, why the things are allowed to be themselves. They’re not themselves as perceived. They are themselves in their radiance.

Between the Covers with Alice Oswald

I thought about these passages as I ran, and the tension I feel between 1. wanting to use words to connect and better understand and describe my experiences, and 2. wanting to dissolve my self into the world and the words. Mostly, I want to dissolve, to have what I’m doing be about the words and the stories, passing them onto others. But, there’s a part of me that wants to push myself to be less hidden, less private, less guarded. Removing myself from the words (and the world) sometimes seems like an easy way not to engage in the messiness, to try and float free above it, which is not really possible or desirable. Of course, thinking about this when I’m running means that no thoughts are that long or clear or remembered. They flash and dissolve.

At some point, I recall thinking about Sarah Manguso and her book, Ongoingness. Here’s what she writes about why she’s kept a diary for 25 years:

I didn’t want to lose anything. That was my main problem. I couldn’t face the end of a day without a record of everything that had every happened.

I wrote about myself so I wouldn’t become paralyzed by rumination–so I could stop thinking about what had happened and be done with it.

More than that, I wrote so I could say I was truly paying attention. Experience in itself wasn’t enough. The dairy was my defense against waking up at the end of my life and realizing I’d missed it.

Ongoingness / Sarah Manguso

I realize, as I recall these running thoughts, that I’m mixing up different types of writing: personal diary entries with polished poems or crafted stories. I also recall trying to ignore the voice that kept reminding me of how this issue of the self in writing has been discussed exhaustively by others. I want to consider others’ perspectives and learn from their insight, but I don’t want to devote all of my time to reading and summarizing their arguments, which is what academic Sara used to do.

I found this poem in a special issue on Alice Oswald. It seems to fit somehow with my discussion. Today, reading it, I especially love the last line:


We were having an argument about where we should live.

Our argument was city versus country, pretty standard. There’s a way the city makes you feel, like you were meant to be there, like if you were there, something would happen to you. You’d go to the movies.

You were telling the story about the first time you found the donkeys. You told it slowly. Because you hadn’t gone for the purpose of seeing them at all. You’d gone to that place to make a fire.

You never wanted to get anywhere. The landscape passes through you – you don’t pass through it. At heart you’re just a scavenger, making due with very little. So, having an experience has something to do with there not being a lot of something, light, or money.

What you were saying had something to do with time. If time runs out, you said, you have to just stand there. You can panic, ok, but it’s like a panic in the house.

You can’t think your way into your body. You can’t think your way into time. You can’t have an experience by trying to have an experience, I said to you, and you said, why not?

I’m not sure why I’m telling you this. I’m telling you because maybe an experience is something that happens on the way.

What else am I supposed to do?

I am always on the side of the country. I don’t have had anything to say about the people in the country. I don’t know any. I think the point of the country is that people are secondary to it.

returning later in the day to this entry: Listening (and reading) more of the Between the Covers podcast with Oswald, which is focused primarily on her latest work, Nobody, I’m thinking that I should definitely read it and do a lot more thinking about water and its many forms, and water as a type of subjectivity, or subjectless subjectivity? Maybe I should with trying to trace, more carefully, how the River Dart is a subjectless subject, or a multitude of subjects?

march 21/RUN

6 miles
franklin loop
52 degrees

A very spring day today. Tomorrow, colder again. Rain and 40s. I overdressed — I didn’t need to the running tights. It was mostly overcast, but every so often I saw my shadow. Faint, but leading me. Ran the Franklin loop. My watch crashed less than 3 miles in. Either I get a new watch soon, or stop wearing a watch. I’m leaning towards not wearing a watch.

I got a “morning!” from Mr. Morning! and Dave the Daily Walker. An excellent start to my run. Encountered a few other runners, some walkers. Any bikes? I can’t remember. No roller skiers yet. The birds were LOUD! Heard some honking geese, then saw them flying low in a line. Heard at least one woodpecker, drumming.

note: re-reading the entry and the part about the LOUD birds, I’m struck by how quiet everything is now, at 1 pm. Where is all the birdsong that was here just minutes ago? Strange.

workers of the day

Nearing the marshall/lake street bridge from the northeast, I started to smell tar. Then I heard some deep voices on the hill at St. Thomas: “Go go go go!” then “woah” or “wow” or “alright” but not “stop” or “that’s enough.” I imagined someone was pouring the tar and someone else was telling them when to stop. Was that what was happening? It was too far away and hidden behind trees for me to see. What was the tar for? What exactly were they doing? Tarring a roof? Repaving a road? Were the workers wearing masks to protect them from the fumes?

Right before I started my run, I typed this here: A few lines from the poem to remember as I run:

have you forgotten the force that orders the world’s
and sets all cities in their sites, this nomad
pulling the sun and moon, placeless in all places,
born with her stones, with her circular bird-voice,
carrying everywhere her quarters?

I decided to try and keep remembering (and noticing and studying) the river as I ran. Often, even as I know it’s there, I forget to notice it. Today, it was pale blue and mostly calm. I saw a reflection of the lake street bridge as I ran on the east side, but it wasn’t completely smooth — not the perfect, inverted bridge from another world I sometimes see. The banks were mostly brown, although there were a few white spots. Just past Meeker Island Dam, I heard a small waterfall. No boats or rowers. No ducks. Running above the river, I never got close enough to hear it. All I could hear were the cars driving by — on the river road, a bridge, the distant freeway. To me, it seemed as if they were trying to sound like a rushing river. I thought about how important the river is to Minneapolis and St. Paul, how roads, buildings, neighborhoods, industry are arranged around it and because of it (ordering the world, setting cities in its sites). I love how Oswald offered this wonderful description of the organizing/ordering force of the river, wedged between these two passages from the dairy worker.


I’m in a rationalised set-up, a Superplant. Everything’s stainless
and risk can be spun off by centrifugal motion: blood, excre-
ment, faecal matter from the farms

and after:

I’m in milk, 600,000,000 gallons a week.

On March 17th, I wrote a little about Oswald and work/working. I posted two passages by her that discuss the value of labor as a way to know the land: raking and gardening. She writes: “Instead of looking at landscape in a baffled, longing way, it was a release when I worked outside to feel that I was using it, part of it. I became critical of any account that was not a working account.”

This idea of not looking at the landscape in a baffled, longing way fits with some more of her words, in an interview: Landscape and Literature Podcast: Alice Oswald on the Dart River. In this podcast she discusses her resistance to the romanticizing of landscapes:

I’m just continually smashing down the nostalgia in my head. And trying to inquire of the landscape itself what it feels about itself. Rather than bringing my advertising skills — getting rid of words like picturesque…there’s a whole range of words that people like to use about landscape, like pastoral, idyll. I quite like taking the names away from things and seeing what they are behind their names. I exert incredible amounts of energy trying to see things from their own points of view rather than the human point of view.

…more interested in the democratic stories…the hardship of laboring, looking for food…the struggle of a tree trying to grow out of stone…always looking for that struggle. I’m allergic to peace. I like this restless landscape. I like that it won’t let you sit back and say, “what a beautiful place I’ve arrived to.” You’ve never arrived. It’s moving past you all the time.

It’s a day long effort to get your mind into the right position to live and speak well.

Landscape and Literature Podcast: Alice Oswald on the Dart River

I’m thinking about this effort as a form of labor, done in tandem with other forms of labor, like using the land, walking through the land, working on the land. Oswald doesn’t foreground this type of work — the smashing of nostalgia and trying to find better, less romantic, words — in Dart. Is that because that’s her work, as a poet, and she’s trying to keep herself out of the poem? In contrast to Oswald, Mary Oliver frequently discusses her labor of noticing and telling about it. I appreciate Oliver’s emphasis on that difficult labor, but as I read Oswald, I also like the idea of trying to move outside of, or beside, ourselves to imagine things from the point of view of the flower and its struggles, instead of from our point of view as we admire/praise that flower. She gives the example of the flower in this interview, ending with, “It’s a fascinating, hard world for a weed.

I wonder, is there room in Oswald’s democratic stories for her own efforts at smashing nostalgia and noticing from different perspectives? How would that alter the poem to include the voice of the observer-participant or participant-observer? How might it look if the author’s voice wasn’t absent, but made only one among many, all having value?

my whole style’s a stone wall

In a section on the stonewaller, Oswald offers this great line:

…which is how everything goes
with me, because you see I’m a gatherer, an amateur, a
scavenger, a comber, my whole style’s a stone wall, just
wedging together what happens to be lying about at the time.

page 33

There are so many great lines in this poem!