may 21/RUN

3 miles
turkey hollow
66 degrees

Since it was a late Sunday morning on a beautiful day, I decided to avoid the river road path. I ran on Edmund and the grassy boulevard instead. My left hip and knee felt a little sore, and the run didn’t always feel easy, but it was still great to be outside moving. The thing I remember most was the birds at the beginning. So many chirps and tweets and trills. Much louder near my house than by the river.

Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker. Encountered a lot of bikers, runners, a big group of walkers in matching black shirts, 3 kids playing basketball out in the street.

Overheard a conversation and intended to remember what one of the woman said, but I forgot within a few minutes.

Tried to run in the shade, avoid the warm sun. Felt overdressed in shorts and short-sleeved shirt. Next time: tank top.

Looked for turkeys in turkey hollow. Didn’t see even one. Looked at the window of the poem house. Still the same poem from last December.

At the end of the run, as I was walking home, I pulled out my phone, planning to practice reciting the poem I re-memorized the morning — “Writing a Poem”– into it, but there were several people nearby and I felt self-conscious. I was inspired to re-memorize this poem because of the loud weed whacker that was buzzing in my brain late yesterday morning while I was trying to read Mary Ruefle. So loud! It’s dzzzzzzzzzz (not the dizz dizz dizz of the poem) taking over everything.

This morning, during my usual routine or reading, I discovered this wonderful interview with the poet, Sarah Audsley. There are many things in this interview I’d like to revisit, but especially this:

FWR: You’re also a self-described rural poet. How would you say place and/or the pastoral influence your writing?

Sarah Audsley: “The rural poet” seems like it is in contention with “the city poet.” For me, maybe it is! Because, for me, place and my connection to place is essential. I enjoy visiting cities and being an interloper in city life, but I will always choose to live in a rural place. Walking my dog three times a day, cross country  skiing in the winter, and hiking in the mountains in the summer, offsets all the daily computer grind. I like to think, too, that it feeds the work. To put it in another way, I’m a better poet if I’ve spent some time outside noticing and moving in the woods. The natural world offers me a sense of belonging. So, of course, this will appear in the poems. As for the pastoral poetry tradition, two poets and influences come to mind: Vievee Francis and the “anti-pastoral” poems in Forest Primeval, and Jennifer Chang’s Bread Loaf Lecture, “Other Pastorals: Writing Race and Place” (June 2019, available here.)

Mary Ruefle, “On Secrets”

Secret #7

Every word carries a secret inside itself; it’s called etymology.

It is the DNA of a word. To crack of press a word is to use its etymology to reveal its secrets, all still embedded in the direct action of ancient and original metaphor.

page 91

The psychic energy required and used in writing a poem is also a secret. Where did it come from? How did it get here and where is it going?

These are the questions we ask ourselves when we write, and these are the questions an astronomer asks of the stars.

Consider the word consider, which originally meant “to observe the stars.”

Consideration leads to comprehension, which originally meant “to grasp, to seize something with the hands and hold it tight in the arms”: what the mother does with the child. To hold, to put one’s arms around.

As Jung once wittily noted: “When the neurotic complains that the world does not understand him, he is telling us in a word that he want his mother.”

And who among us is not neurotic, and has never complained that they are not understood? Why did you come here, to this place, if not in the hope of being understood, of being in some small way comprehended by your peers, and embraced by them in a fellowship of shared secrets?

I don’t know about you, but I just want to be held.

To say that consideration leads to comprehension is to say that observation leads to action. The tasks of the outside world must be observed and then embraced privately, just as the astronomer looks through his telescope, considers the stars, and embraces the universe in the closed space of his mind.

Enter the cold dark matter.

Enter the anti-secret of every word. There is no comprehension. Our comprehension is limited. Language can only hold for a moment before the embrace disintegrates.

pages 92-94

The two sides of a secret are repression and expression, just as the two sides of poem are the told and the untold. We must be careful not to take the word as the meaning itself; words no not “capture” a moment as much as they “communicate” it—they are a bridge that, paradoxically, breaks isolation and loneliness without eradicating it. It is the first experience you ever had of reading a decent poem: “Ph, somebody else is lonely, too!”

Secret #9

In the end I would rather wonder than know.

Because I would rather wonder than know, my interests and talents lie in the arts rather than the sciences, although, like the monk who discovered champagne–an accidental event that unexpectedly happened to his wine–I have on occasion come running with open arms toward another with the news, “Look! I am drinking the stars!”

page 101

I would rather wonder than know. Yes!

a few hours later: Scrolling through instagram I found a poem by Laura Gilpin:

IV / Laura Gilpin

The things I know:
how the living go on living 
and how the dead go on living with them
So that in a forest
even a dead tree casts a shadow 
and the leaves fall one by one 
and the branches break in the wind 
and the bark peels off slowly 
and the trunk cracks
and the rain seeps in through the cracks 
and the trunk falls to the ground
and the moss covers it

and in the spring the rabbits find it 
and build their nest inside 
and their young will live safely
and have their young
inside the dead tree
So that nothing is wasted in nature
or in love.

I like this poem; I also like the title of the book it’s from — The Hocus-Pocus of the Universe — which made me remember a line from Ruefle’s lecture on secrets:

the sacred word is a secret and cannot be spoken without consequence, be it blessing or curse. There is simply too much power in certain words, and the unnerving force of naming casts a great spell over language and, in one very important sense, created poetry, since to invoke sacred powers, bypass words were employed, incantations without any meaning at all, such as abracadabra, words that of course became imbued with as much power as what they were trying to invoke. And then, as often happens, it worked in reverse, so that very sacred words or phrases bypassed themselves, through a living version of the parlor game Password, where a word is passed or repeated from ear to ear until it changes into gibberish. To my mind, the most paralyzing example of this process is one origin theory of the term hocus-pocus, that it was once hoc est corpus — This is my body ….”

page 81