june 22/RUN

3.15 miles
river road south/north
67 degrees
93% humidity / dew point: 65

Very tough on the legs! That dew point — ugh! Another difficult run. Still glad I did it. I heard some chattering birds and water gushing out of the sewer pipe near 42nd. Ran over puddles, slippery leaves, mud, recently re-tarred asphalt, dirt, roots. I remember looking at the river through the trees but I don’t remember what it looked like — probably a very pale blue or white, like the sky.

Inspired by all of my time with Alice Oswald lately, I’m thinking of starting Nobody again this afternoon. Listening to an interview she did with Kit Fan, back in 2020, I’m intrigued by what she said about her approach to writing it:

[The poem] sets out really to drown the reader. I wanted it not to feel like a sort of intellectual exercise where you would emerge kind of clarified and simplified, but literally to be as if you were inhaling water. … I find the people who I think get most out of it are those who don’t expect it to be conveying a thought, but expect it to be more like the experience of being outdoors, where you simply are assaulted by all kinds of different tunes and beings.

A Conversation with Kit Fan and Alice Oswald

And here, AO talks about color:

Well, I always feel that the Odyssey is a very bright emerald green because it has this incredible sort of vegetative life in it. It’s like a plant that just cannot stop growing. You know, the sentences grow all over the place. So, even though it’s a poem about the sea, I actually feel that kind of bright green of spring leaves in it. But I mean, I did kind of quite terrifying things to my mind when I was writing this poem, because I got quite interested in theories of color and sort of trying to watch what my mind was doing, particularly looking at colors in water and how your mind will tell you that’s green because you know it’s a leaf, but actually when you look at it, it’s not because it’s in a black river. And so, just trying to notice what the mind does and try, as I’m always trying, to get away from my own mind and out into the world. I was trying to see what colors are beyond my mind. And I think they probably don’t exist beyond the mind. So, it was actually an experience of almost unsettling all my perceptions really.

And being stuck, and going nowhere — is this similar to my looping!?

So these stories don’t get anywhere. They’re all stuck. And I like sort of, you know, Celtic patterns that just go on and on doing the same thing. So I didn’t want to make a poem that got anywhere, really. I wanted a poem that was stuck, whose stories couldn’t quite move forward, that had simply been tossed about by the weather, really.

later (5 pm): At the risk of making this entry too long, I’d like to add a few thoughts/notes after reading part of AO’s Nobody again, having read it before in 2022. It was very helpful to listen to AO’s lecture, “Interview with Water” and listen to/read the transcript of her interview with Kit Fan.

Before the poem begins, AO describes the similar (using similar like she does in “Interview with Water” — not the same, but resembling but varied, like water by currents) stories of Agamemnon, whose wife was not faithful and Odysseus, whose wife was.

This poem lives in the murkiness between those stories. Its voice is wind-blown, water-damaged, as if someone set out to sing the Odyssey, but was rowed to a stony island and never discovered the poem’s ending.

Nobody/ Alice Oswald

It helped me to read that beside AO’s words in her interview with Kit Fan:

. . .the poem is very much a kind of strange reading of the Odyssey. The Odyssey I see is a beautifully patterned wedding hymn about Odysseus’s marriage to Penelope and how they are driven apart by the Trojan War, and then they come back together. But embedded in that story, you’ve got the opposite story, which is the wedding of Agamemnon who goes off to the same war and comes back and is murdered by his wife whose taken another. And it’s that reverse Odyssey that I was writing in this poem, partly because the poet who is abandoned on the island is part of Agamemnon’s household. So, from his point of view, the Odyssey is being seen differently, from that other, much darker story. 

A Conversation with Kit Fan and Alice Oswald

Her use of darker here, reminds me of something she said in “Interview with Water”: “when you look at water, it allows you to exist twice but more darkly.”