march 13/RUN

4.45 miles
Veterans’ Home Loop
32 degrees

Ran with Scott this morning. Sunny, spring-like. Lots of black-capped chickadees. I mentioned to Scott that lately I’ve only heard the fee bee call, but not the response. Notes that ascend, but never descend. Today, we also heard woodpeckers and cardinals. Yesterday, the river was covered with a thin sheet of ice; today it’s open again. We stopped at the falls and leaned over the stone wall. I could hear the creek water moving. Scott said he could see it; I hardly ever rely on my vision for things like that anymore.

As we were heading over the tall bridge, above the creek, that leads to the Veterans’ Home, Scott told me about a Sesame Street video with Luis he watched the other day. Scott watched a lot of Sesame Street as a kid; me, not so much. Was it because I had HBO and sisters older than me? Not sure. Anyway, in this Sesame Street clip Luis is helping Telly deal with his worries about forgetting a friend’s name. In giving advice, Luis is super chill and talks to Telly like he’s an equal person, not a freaked out little kid. Wow, I would love to be that chill.

The friend’s name is Alexander Cheesefloss Hollingsworth Cantaloupe the IV. Wow.

Our run was a combination of running and walking. I like running and walking, sometimes stopping to study things more closely. I should try to do more of these in the spring and summer. It’s especially fun doing them with Scott.

So, a few days ago I was reviewing a thread I had saved about meter and how you learn it. In addition to advice (memorize and speak it, move with it, think of it as swing notes in jazz, spend a lot of time breaking it down, focus on poems with very strong meter), many people discussed their struggle with hearing meter because of dialects and english not being their first language. One person mentioned a great essay by Nate Marshall about this, and I found it: A Code Switch Memoir. Nate Marshall describes how, as a young elementary school student, he would struggle with the set of questions on his vocabulary test that asked for the stressed syllable:

This absolutely stumped me. My grandmother, the librarian, was from Montgomery, Alabama and I often heard her pronounce words in ways unlike many of my white friends at school. Her friend, the Arab dude who ran Fame Food & Liquor a few streets from our house, had his own wild pronunciation. Even my mother, her daughter, would shift her vocal patterning on words and phrases depending on if she was talking to us kids after a long day at work or calling the police to report men drinking and shooting dice in the park across the street. The idea that words had specific patterns to be followed did not make sense to me, though I did not know how to articulate why.

A Code Switch Memoir

I struggle with meter. Before reading this essay or the tweets on the meter thread, I hadn’t thought about my own experience with accents and dialects. I was born in the remote Upper Peninsula of Michigan, with its thick Yooper accent until I was almost 5. Then I moved to Hickory, North Carolina, a small southern town with thick southern accents until I was 9. Then southern Virginia (more of the south), and norther Virginia (more East Coast), and Des Moines, Iowa for high school (midwest twang). I went to college in southern Minnesota (lots of Canadian long os), and grad school in the LA area and Atlanta, Georgia. My dad grew up in the UP, my mom in St. Paul. Both of them spent a lot of their early adult life in Illinois (Rock Island, then Chicago). All of these locations and their distinctive dialects have crept into how I speak and how I hear words. Could this be one of the reasons meter is difficult for me? Maybe.

Speaking of accents, as Scott and I were running back from the falls, we talked about cycling and the amazing and unstoppable Tadej Pogačar. In one sentence, Scott said Pogačar’s name in 2 different ways: 1. sounds like Po GA cha and 2. sounds like: PO ga char. The tv announcers often use both of these pronunciations interchangeably. When I pointed it out to Scott, we talked about which one might be right. I mentioned my own name, Puotinen and how there’s the “right” way to pronounce it (as in, how it’s supposed to sound in Finnish), and then there’s the way I pronounce it. My version has much more of a puWAtinen sound, as opposed to the “right” way, which is more PUwotinen. Anyway, I thought I’d find a video of Tadej Pogačar saying his own name:

What do you hear?

I’m fairly new to studying poetry (only seriously since 2017), but my sense is that poetry people have lots of different feelings about meter and whether or not it’s still important. Here’s what Nate Marshall writes about it:

I’ve grown to have a great fondness for formal poetry. I still don’t understand metrical prosody very well but I understand its importance in the tradition. I was asked the question recently whether or not meter was still a useful tool in poetry. I think meter, like anything else, is at play when building the small geniuses of a poem. I think form and verse are important ways to give artistic challenges that can lead to great results. With that said, I believe that every poet and generation of poets has to define and redefine their relationship to form and the role it will play. Whether it’s the fourteen-line sonnet, the sixteen-line rap verse, the six-line stanza of a sestina, or the tercet of a blues poem each poet has to figure how to find and employ the weapons that offer each poem its truest voice.

A Code Switch Memoir