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?