dec 31/BIKE

bike: 30 minutes

Sometime last night, my left leg/knee started to hurt, then it snowed and left slippery sidewalks, so today I decided to be cautious and bike. Watched a replay of the Kona Ironman from 2017 while I biked. At one point, they interviewed 6 (or 5?) time Ironman winner Natasha Badmann. I remember her! She had an amazing perspective on one of the toughest parts of the course: the energy lab. She saw it as giving her energy, not taking it away — the energy of inspiration from the powerful waves off in the distance. Wow, to be that present when you’re 6 or 7 hours into a tough race is impressive. As I biked, I thought about athletes and the different ways they try to overcome the strong desire to stop, give up. I find Badmann’s approach to be a helpful lesson in letting go — not trying to control your thoughts or getting rid of your pain, but releasing them and shifting to another way of being — a way in which you’re not centered, but witnessing something beside yourself. Does that make sense?

Before biking, I had a good morning filled with ideas: 1. creating a series of short poems in which I use my favorite lines from other poets by fitting them into my running/rhythmic breathing form: 3/2 and 2. using my 3/2 form and writing poems that are one sentence long.

I also watched an amazing talk by Ed Hirsch on poetry, the poem, and the reader:

I wish there was a transcript. If there is, I can’t find it, so here are some of my highlights:

Poetry exists to inspire the reader not to inspire the writer, that the purpose of poetry is in the relationship between a poet, a poem, and a reader. And it’s in that connection between them.

Talking about his teacher at Grinnell told him:

You have the gifts to be a poet, but what you’re writing is not poetry. It’s not even close to poetry. What you’re writing down are your thoughts and your feelings but you’re not trying to craft anything, you’re not trying to make anything. You’re not writing in relationship to any other poetry. You’re not reading poetry and so you’re not really a poet right now. You are a person who writes poetry. You have to read poetry and connect your poems to what you’re reading.

He discusses reading Gerard Manley Hopkins and feeling a profound connection. It spoke deeply to him and he wanted to know/study how Hopkins could achieve this.

Holy shit, this thing’s a sonnet? You mean, he’s not just writing out his poems the way I write out mine? He’s actually making it rhyme and everything? That seems generous to me. I want to do that. I’m going to try and make something for someone in the future so that they can feel about my poem the way I feel about Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem.

Then he talks about how Hopkins’ poem was so distanced from him by time, location, experience, yet it spoke to him more than anything else he had heard. He realized that poetry can communicate more deeply than social conversation.

Celan: a poem is a message in a bottle, not guaranteed to reach anyone; a poem is sent out to some future person

Poets are people who, not so much want to express themselves, but feel so encountered by other poems that they want to respond in kind. That’s why Emily Dickinson calls the poets she reads, “her kinsmen of the shelf.”

The reader plays an important role in the understanding of poetry. The message in the bottle only finds its life when it’s activated in you. When you become the secret addresse.

There are a few poems you read and you go, I feel almost like I’ve written the poem to which I’m actually only responding to.

poetry: the gift of privacy and participation: It gives you interiority and it also gives you connection.

Poetry as stored magic that can’t be paraphrased

Poetry exists in the relationship between the poet who wrote it, the poem which encapsulates the experience, and the reader who reads it.

His discussion here reminds me of an interview I read and posted at some point in the last few years:

We are not diminished but enlarged by grief, by our refusal to vanish, or to let others vanish, without leaving a verbal record. We need poetry to help us transform the oceanic depths of feeling into art. Poetry rises out of one solitude to meet another in recognition and connection. It companions us.

And, yes, poetry is connected to contemporary life, but it’s also always connected to other poetry. We need an archive of eloquence and response.

Interview with Edward Hirsch