minnehaha falls and back
First run after the big snowstorm. 16 or 17 inches total. All plowed then pressed down to about an inch of solid, crunchy, fun-to-run-on snow. Cold. No wind. Blue sky. Blue snow. Frozen river. Heard at least one or two birds. Quiet at the falls. Encountered a few runners, a few walkers, no cross-country skiers or dogs or shadows. About a mile and a half in, there was a flash of sharp pain in my left knee.
I wasn’t trying to notice anything. Just swinging my arms, striking my feet, and thinking about this blog and how I use it. Did I notice at least 10 things without noticing?
10 Things I Noticed
- the single chirp of a bird near the ford bridge. Not sure what kind of bird, but it was very “bird” (as in, what you might imagine when you think about hearing a bird call)
- the path was almost completely covered. Only at Minnehaha Regional Park near the falls on the path closest to the parkway were there a few strips of bare pavement
- I think I remember hearing some people talking as I neared the falls, or did I imagine that?
- a person in the park with a dog appearing from a path that I thought wasn’t plowed. Were they trudging through the snow on an unplowed path, or was I wrong about it not being plowed?
- kids yelling and laughing on the playground at minnehaha academy
- 2 people dressed in dark clothing, walking fast through the park parking lot — in this sort of light my color sense with my lack of cone cells is reduced to 2 colors: light and dark
- sharp, quick crunches on the snow as my feet struck the ground
- a car pulling over on the river road to let a faster car go by
- the pedestrian side of the double-bridge was almost a perfect sheet of white — just a few footsteps on the edge
- the big sledding hill on the edge of the falls was white and empty
Felt very cold at the beginning. Started with a buff covering my mouth and over my ears, top of my head, a hood, and a cap, a pair of gloves and a pair of mittens, my jacket zipped up all the way. Pulled the hood down 3/4 of a mile in. Then unzipped the jacket slightly near the double bridge. Pulled my buff down next. At the falls, removed the mittens and stuffed them in my pockets. Near the end, flipped up the ear flaps on my cap.
Before I went out for my run, I was thinking about the final week of my class and possibly applying to teach something in the summer about how I use this blog. Often, one of the primary ways people use a blog is for sharing their work with others and for developing an audience. As I was running, I remembered how my blog is about practicing care — care of the self (a little Foucault), care as curiosity, attention, beholding. On the run, the word “care” popped into my head and it all made sense. Now, sitting at my desk and typing it here, it makes less sense. O, to live forever in that magical moment of clarity before you have to force an idea into meaning and words!
My Emily Dickinson, day one
In the spring of 2019, I discovered that Susan Howe had written a book about Emily Dickinson called, My Emily Dickinson. My first encounter with Howe had been when she wrote about Jonathan Edwards and how he would remember ideas while horseback riding by pinning notes to his clothes in Souls of the Labadie Tract. When I discovered My Emily Dickinson, I talked about buying it, which I did 2 years later. Now finally, 2 years after that, I am reading it. I decided that I better do it before I can’t — I’m not sure when my final cone cells will die, but it could be any day now. When that happens, I won’t be able to read, or I might be able to read a little, but it will be even harder than it is now. And it will take so much time — only a page (or less) a day?
I’m taking notes in a pages document titled “My Emily Dickinson,” so I won’t post it all here. I’m contemplating creating a page on my UN DISCIPLINED site for all my ED stuff. A few things to note:
Lorine Niedecker (another of my favorites — she loved condensing, wrote beautifully about water and place and Lake Superior, and she had serious vision problems that she incorporated into her writing) considered ED one of ten writers in her “immortal cupboard.”
William Carlos Williams, who thought ED wasn’t a poet but got closer than any other woman had, had a maternal grandmother named Emily Dickenson.
According to Howe, most (all?) of the critical studies of ED as a poet (up to 1985, when this book was written), read ED’s decision to stay isolated in her bedroom for the rest of her life as tragedy and a failure to celebrate herself as a poet (Whitman) or declare herself confidently as the Poet, the Sayer, the Namer (Emerson). Howe argues that she made another choice and writes the following:
She said something subtler. ‘Nature is a Haunted House–but Art–a House that tries to be haunted.’ (L459a)
Yes, gender difference does affect our use of language, and we constantly confront issues of difference, distance, and absence when we write. That doesn’t mean I can relegate women to what we ‘should’ or ‘must’ be doing. Orders suggest hierarchy and category. Categories and hierarchies suggest property. My voice formed from my life belongs to no one else. What I put into words is no longer my possession. Possibility has opened. The future will forget, erase, or recollect and deconstruct every poem. There is a mystic separation between poetic vision and ordinary living. The conditions for poetry rest outside each life at a miraculous reach indifferent to worldly chronology.My Emily Dickinson
I feel like I’m just on the edge of understanding what Howe says here. I need some more time, and I’ll take it because I like this idea of haunting a house. One thing I can tell already from Howe’s first 10 or so pages, is that her Emily Dickinson is not exactly my Emily Dickinson. Howe seems to be arguing strongly that ED should be taken seriously as a real poet who was smart and learned but had different aims (that most critics have ignored or not “got”). And, to take her seriously is to acknowledge that she should be included in the canon — and that, contrary to what all the other critics think, women can be poets, have been poets. I’m all for taking ED seriously and recognizing that she did some amazing things with her dashes, but I don’t care about the canon. In fact, I’m trying to stay away from those sorts of academic discussions. Of course, part of the reason I/we already take ED seriously in 2023 is Howe’s 1985 book. Am I making sense? I’m not sure.
I was just about to write another paragraph, citing a few passages from Howe to clarify what I mean, but I won’t. I could spend the rest of the afternoon doing that, but why, and for what aim? I used to spend all of my time summarizing and offering a critical analysis as an academic, never reaching the point where I got to do what I wanted with the ideas, constructing something new out of them. Most of my papers or presentations would conclude: “Having almost run out of time, I’ll offer some brief suggestions…”
The challenge: to read and enjoy Howe’s book without getting sucked into engaging with it as an academic. I find this to be the challenge with poetry too as I continue to study it more. Referencing Wallace Stevens and his idea that poetry is “the scholar’s art,” Howe is arguing that (maybe?) above all else, ED is a scholar and that’s why you should respect her and take her seriously. I’m not interested in that, and don’t believe that being a scholar makes you more serious. As I write these lines, I’m realizing that I should call this My Susan Howe. I’m reading her arguments from my particular perspective, and I’m bringing lots of baggage!
Does it sound like I dislike Howe’s book? I hope not.