march 22/RUN

3.5 miles
3.5 mile loop*
40 degrees
light rain

*Couldn’t think of a more clever name right now for this 3.5 mile loop: head to the river, turn right, run past the oak savanna, the 38th street steps, the lonely bench, the curved retaining wall, to the 44th street parking lot. Loop around the lot, then head north on the river road. Keep going past the ravine and the welcoming oaks. Run down into the tunnel of trees, above the floodplain forest, beside the old stone steps. Just before double bridge north, turn right and head over to edmund boulevard. Run south to 34th st, head east, then south on 45th st.

Ran a little earlier this morning to get ahead of the rain. Made it about 20 minutes before it began. Light rain I could barely distinguish from my sweat at first. Then a little heavier. I could hear the light thumps of the rain drops hitting the hard, barely thawed, earth. I could see the rain making a fine mist or a thin veil of fog. The sky was gray, everything else brown and dull yellow. Extra dreamy and surreal.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the drumming of a woodpecker: not rapid and insistent, but sporadic and dull. Does that mean the wood was more hollow or less?
  2. the oak savanna was all yellow and brown, no snow in sight
  3. all the walking trails were clear of ice and open!
  4. ahead of me I thought I noticed a man walking with a dog. As I got closer, they were gone. Had I imagined it? No, I saw a flash of them below me on the steep, dirt trail down to the savanna
  5. again, ahead of me I thought I saw two people walking near the 38th steps who then disappeared. Had I just mistaken the trashcans for people (which I do frequently)? No, as I passed the steps, there they were, entering the paved part of the Winchell Trail
  6. several walkers on the Winchell Trail
  7. bright car headlights cutting through the gloom, passing through the bare branches on the other side of the ravine
  8. a man in bright blue shorts and matching shirt with sunglasses (?), running with a dog, or was it 2? We passed each other twice
  9. Mr. Morning! greeted me. I’m pretty sure I responded with my own “morning” instead of “good morning!” (which is my usual response)
  10. the ravine was partly clear, partly covered in snow. I tried to listen for the water flowing down to the river, but I could only hear the rain and the car wheels and the clanging of my zipper pull

Woke up this morning to an acceptance for one of my poems for the What You See is What You Get Issue in Hearth & Coffin Literary Journal! They didn’t accept my mannequin one, but another favorite about swimming in lake nokomis and seeing more than I wanted. That poem, “there is a limit,” began on this log, in an entry on june 1, 2018:

After finishing the run, I decided to swim. The water was warm which is amazing considering the lake still had ice at the end of April! Guess all those 90+ degree days really warmed it up fast. The water was also clear. Freak-me-out clear. I could see the bottom and the algae plants growing up from the bottom and the fish swimming below me. I have decided that it is better to swim without being able to see what I’m swimming with. If I can’t see it, I can pretend it’s not there, which is probably what it would like too. The coolest part of the clear water was seeing all the shafts of light piercing through the lake. 3, 4, maybe more. I also liked being able to look at the bottom in the beach area–I think I counted 5 or 6 hair bands, lost to their owners forever. I might have swam longer but there were a few school groups at the beach and I was concerned that some of the kids would mess with my stuff. I couldn’t tell if they were in elementary or middle school, but they sure knew how to yell out “fuck” at the top of their lungs. A kid that will brazenly yell out “fuck this” or “fuck you” or preface many words with “fucking” on a school trip might find it amusing to throw my towel in the water or take my sweatshirt. But getting back to how clear the water was, part of me wishes I had spent more time exploring underwater and studying the bottom–how deep it gets, what’s really down there. But, another part of me–perhaps a bigger part–likes the idea of keeping it a mystery. Knowing more might make me more anxious or disappointed in how un-mysterious it is.

Speaking of swimming, Alice Oswald is a river swimmer! Very cool. She’s written poems about swimming, and discussed it in several of the interviews I’ve read. I’d post more about that now, but I want to discuss what I thought about as I ran: the poet in the poem. In yesterday’s log entry, I posed these questions:

I wonder, is there room in Oswald’s democratic stories for her own efforts at smashing nostalgia and noticing from different perspectives? How would that alter the poem to include the voice of the observer-participant or participant-observer? How might it look if the author’s voice wasn’t absent, but made only one among many, all having value?

log entry / 21 march 2022

Just before heading out the door, I read this quotation from Oswald in an interview about her collection, Woods, etc.:

I almost feel that I am not part of it. I believe the poet shouldn’t be in the poem at all except as a lens or as ears.

I also read a bit of the transcript from David Nieman’s interview with Oswald. He suggests: “It feels like all through the discussions you’ve had on your own writing, it seems like there’s a way you’re trying to break out and away from you, break out and away from the self….” Her response:

AO: I suppose I was very excited right from the start to feel that Homer doesn’t necessarily come from one’s self. For me, when I’m thinking about the difference between Epic and Lyric, you can define them in many ways and Aristotle had his particular definition, but for me, what is interesting is that it’s not necessarily owned oneself. That means it escapes from the solipsism that creeps into lyric poetry that you can become stifled by one mood, one point of view. For me, that extends to thinking itself. That’s why I have an anxiety about thinking because it feels as if it’s hitting one person’s skull, whereas Homer’s poems, because they have simply been eroded into their way of being by being passed from one person to another, they somehow embody a multiple mind and they move out of the clouding and confinement of one person’s point of view. That’s, I presume, why the things are allowed to be themselves. They’re not themselves as perceived. They are themselves in their radiance.

Between the Covers with Alice Oswald

I thought about these passages as I ran, and the tension I feel between 1. wanting to use words to connect and better understand and describe my experiences, and 2. wanting to dissolve my self into the world and the words. Mostly, I want to dissolve, to have what I’m doing be about the words and the stories, passing them onto others. But, there’s a part of me that wants to push myself to be less hidden, less private, less guarded. Removing myself from the words (and the world) sometimes seems like an easy way not to engage in the messiness, to try and float free above it, which is not really possible or desirable. Of course, thinking about this when I’m running means that no thoughts are that long or clear or remembered. They flash and dissolve.

At some point, I recall thinking about Sarah Manguso and her book, Ongoingness. Here’s what she writes about why she’s kept a diary for 25 years:

I didn’t want to lose anything. That was my main problem. I couldn’t face the end of a day without a record of everything that had every happened.

I wrote about myself so I wouldn’t become paralyzed by rumination–so I could stop thinking about what had happened and be done with it.

More than that, I wrote so I could say I was truly paying attention. Experience in itself wasn’t enough. The dairy was my defense against waking up at the end of my life and realizing I’d missed it.

Ongoingness / Sarah Manguso

I realize, as I recall these running thoughts, that I’m mixing up different types of writing: personal diary entries with polished poems or crafted stories. I also recall trying to ignore the voice that kept reminding me of how this issue of the self in writing has been discussed exhaustively by others. I want to consider others’ perspectives and learn from their insight, but I don’t want to devote all of my time to reading and summarizing their arguments, which is what academic Sara used to do.

I found this poem in a special issue on Alice Oswald. It seems to fit somehow with my discussion. Today, reading it, I especially love the last line:


We were having an argument about where we should live.

Our argument was city versus country, pretty standard. There’s a way the city makes you feel, like you were meant to be there, like if you were there, something would happen to you. You’d go to the movies.

You were telling the story about the first time you found the donkeys. You told it slowly. Because you hadn’t gone for the purpose of seeing them at all. You’d gone to that place to make a fire.

You never wanted to get anywhere. The landscape passes through you – you don’t pass through it. At heart you’re just a scavenger, making due with very little. So, having an experience has something to do with there not being a lot of something, light, or money.

What you were saying had something to do with time. If time runs out, you said, you have to just stand there. You can panic, ok, but it’s like a panic in the house.

You can’t think your way into your body. You can’t think your way into time. You can’t have an experience by trying to have an experience, I said to you, and you said, why not?

I’m not sure why I’m telling you this. I’m telling you because maybe an experience is something that happens on the way.

What else am I supposed to do?

I am always on the side of the country. I don’t have had anything to say about the people in the country. I don’t know any. I think the point of the country is that people are secondary to it.

returning later in the day to this entry: Listening (and reading) more of the Between the Covers podcast with Oswald, which is focused primarily on her latest work, Nobody, I’m thinking that I should definitely read it and do a lot more thinking about water and its many forms, and water as a type of subjectivity, or subjectless subjectivity? Maybe I should with trying to trace, more carefully, how the River Dart is a subjectless subject, or a multitude of subjects?

march 21/RUN

6 miles
franklin loop
52 degrees

A very spring day today. Tomorrow, colder again. Rain and 40s. I overdressed — I didn’t need to the running tights. It was mostly overcast, but every so often I saw my shadow. Faint, but leading me. Ran the Franklin loop. My watch crashed less than 3 miles in. Either I get a new watch soon, or stop wearing a watch. I’m leaning towards not wearing a watch.

I got a “morning!” from Mr. Morning! and Dave the Daily Walker. An excellent start to my run. Encountered a few other runners, some walkers. Any bikes? I can’t remember. No roller skiers yet. The birds were LOUD! Heard some honking geese, then saw them flying low in a line. Heard at least one woodpecker, drumming.

note: re-reading the entry and the part about the LOUD birds, I’m struck by how quiet everything is now, at 1 pm. Where is all the birdsong that was here just minutes ago? Strange.

workers of the day

Nearing the marshall/lake street bridge from the northeast, I started to smell tar. Then I heard some deep voices on the hill at St. Thomas: “Go go go go!” then “woah” or “wow” or “alright” but not “stop” or “that’s enough.” I imagined someone was pouring the tar and someone else was telling them when to stop. Was that what was happening? It was too far away and hidden behind trees for me to see. What was the tar for? What exactly were they doing? Tarring a roof? Repaving a road? Were the workers wearing masks to protect them from the fumes?

Right before I started my run, I typed this here: A few lines from the poem to remember as I run:

have you forgotten the force that orders the world’s
and sets all cities in their sites, this nomad
pulling the sun and moon, placeless in all places,
born with her stones, with her circular bird-voice,
carrying everywhere her quarters?

I decided to try and keep remembering (and noticing and studying) the river as I ran. Often, even as I know it’s there, I forget to notice it. Today, it was pale blue and mostly calm. I saw a reflection of the lake street bridge as I ran on the east side, but it wasn’t completely smooth — not the perfect, inverted bridge from another world I sometimes see. The banks were mostly brown, although there were a few white spots. Just past Meeker Island Dam, I heard a small waterfall. No boats or rowers. No ducks. Running above the river, I never got close enough to hear it. All I could hear were the cars driving by — on the river road, a bridge, the distant freeway. To me, it seemed as if they were trying to sound like a rushing river. I thought about how important the river is to Minneapolis and St. Paul, how roads, buildings, neighborhoods, industry are arranged around it and because of it (ordering the world, setting cities in its sites). I love how Oswald offered this wonderful description of the organizing/ordering force of the river, wedged between these two passages from the dairy worker.


I’m in a rationalised set-up, a Superplant. Everything’s stainless
and risk can be spun off by centrifugal motion: blood, excre-
ment, faecal matter from the farms

and after:

I’m in milk, 600,000,000 gallons a week.

On March 17th, I wrote a little about Oswald and work/working. I posted two passages by her that discuss the value of labor as a way to know the land: raking and gardening. She writes: “Instead of looking at landscape in a baffled, longing way, it was a release when I worked outside to feel that I was using it, part of it. I became critical of any account that was not a working account.”

This idea of not looking at the landscape in a baffled, longing way fits with some more of her words, in an interview: Landscape and Literature Podcast: Alice Oswald on the Dart River. In this podcast she discusses her resistance to the romanticizing of landscapes:

I’m just continually smashing down the nostalgia in my head. And trying to inquire of the landscape itself what it feels about itself. Rather than bringing my advertising skills — getting rid of words like picturesque…there’s a whole range of words that people like to use about landscape, like pastoral, idyll. I quite like taking the names away from things and seeing what they are behind their names. I exert incredible amounts of energy trying to see things from their own points of view rather than the human point of view.

…more interested in the democratic stories…the hardship of laboring, looking for food…the struggle of a tree trying to grow out of stone…always looking for that struggle. I’m allergic to peace. I like this restless landscape. I like that it won’t let you sit back and say, “what a beautiful place I’ve arrived to.” You’ve never arrived. It’s moving past you all the time.

It’s a day long effort to get your mind into the right position to live and speak well.

Landscape and Literature Podcast: Alice Oswald on the Dart River

I’m thinking about this effort as a form of labor, done in tandem with other forms of labor, like using the land, walking through the land, working on the land. Oswald doesn’t foreground this type of work — the smashing of nostalgia and trying to find better, less romantic, words — in Dart. Is that because that’s her work, as a poet, and she’s trying to keep herself out of the poem? In contrast to Oswald, Mary Oliver frequently discusses her labor of noticing and telling about it. I appreciate Oliver’s emphasis on that difficult labor, but as I read Oswald, I also like the idea of trying to move outside of, or beside, ourselves to imagine things from the point of view of the flower and its struggles, instead of from our point of view as we admire/praise that flower. She gives the example of the flower in this interview, ending with, “It’s a fascinating, hard world for a weed.

I wonder, is there room in Oswald’s democratic stories for her own efforts at smashing nostalgia and noticing from different perspectives? How would that alter the poem to include the voice of the observer-participant or participant-observer? How might it look if the author’s voice wasn’t absent, but made only one among many, all having value?

my whole style’s a stone wall

In a section on the stonewaller, Oswald offers this great line:

…which is how everything goes
with me, because you see I’m a gatherer, an amateur, a
scavenger, a comber, my whole style’s a stone wall, just
wedging together what happens to be lying about at the time.

page 33

There are so many great lines in this poem!

march 20/RUN

3.85 miles
marshall loop
36 degrees

This year, the first day of spring feels like spring, which doesn’t always happen. What a wonderful morning. Felt much warmer than 36 degrees. I was overdressed. Sunny, low wind, calm. Clear paths — not crowded, and no snow (except for some slick spots on the sidewalk climbing up Marshall). I was able to run on all of the walking trails. I know I looked at the river, I remember doing it, but I can’t remember what it looked like. Was it brown or blue? No clue.

“staring at routine things”

Before my run, I read a short section from Dart. This one was in the voice of the dairy worker (page 29):

to the milk factory, staring at routine things

Dart / Alice Oswald

In the poem, these routine things include

bottles on belts going round bends.
Watching out for breakages, working nights. Building up
prestige. Me with my hands under the tap, with my brain
coated in a thin film of milk. In the fridge, in the warehouse,
wearing ear-protectors.

Dart / Alice Oswald

I decided to start my run with this prompt: focus on/stare at the routine things on my run. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • the route: Marshall Loop. Not as routine as other routes, but one I do often. North on 43rd ave; right on 31st st; left on 46th ave; right on lake street, then over the bridge until it turns into marshall; up the marshall hill; right on Cretin ave; right on east river road; down past shadow falls; up the lake street bridge steps and over the bridge; down the hill then over to west river road heading south
  • ran past the lutheran church on 32nd and 43rd. Heard the congregation singing inside for the sunday church service
  • encountered another pedestrian, stayed on the right side as we passed
  • wore my usual outfit for an early spring run: black running tights, black shorts, green long-sleeved shirt, orange sweatshirt, hat, headband, gloves
  • like it always does after a rain, or when the snow melts, shadow falls was gushing
  • reaching the top of the marshall hill, I watched the crosswalk timer countdown and the light turn from green to yellow to red

At some point in the run, I started thinking about all the different forms of work happening out by the gorge — like squirrels thumping nuts, birds calling to other birds, a woodpecker drumming on a hollow tree. Maybe I will try to notice forms of work on some run this week?

Then I wondered about how stare might mean more than looking closely (and for a long time) at something. Maybe it also is a general way of describing giving careful, focused attention to something. I think I’ve said it before on this log: I don’t like staring at things, especially people. It feels rude (which is maybe a problem I should try to get over?). Also, it doesn’t always help me, with my bad vision, see something any better. I have more luck with having an awareness of something and absorbing details instead of forcibly collecting them.

march 18/RUN

3.1 miles
marshall loop (short)
44 degrees

After picking up FWA from college for spring break, drove back to Minneapolis and ran the Marshall Loop with STA. It feels like spring. Most of the snow has melted. The river was open and rippling in the wind. As we crossed the lake street bridge, I looked for the eagle that used to perch on the dead tree many years ago. I’m not sure I’ve seen eagles anywhere for some time now. Are they gone, or am just not seeing them?

Read some more of Dart, including this great part voiced by “the swimmer”. I love so much about this, but right now, I’ll just point out the third line as a stand alone poem: “into the fish dimension. Everybody swims here”

from Dart / Alice Oswald

(the swimmer)

Menyahari — we scream in mid-air.
We jump from a tree into a pool, we change ourselves
into the fish dimension. Everybody swims here
under Still Pool Copse, on a saturday,
slapping the water with bare hands, it’s fine once you’re

Is it cold? Is it sharp?

I stood looking down through beech trees.
When I threw a stone I could count five before the

Then I jumped in a rush of gold to the head,
thought black and cold, red and cold, brown and warm,
giving water the weight and size of myself in order to
imagine it,
water with my bones, water with my mouth and my

when my body was in some way a wave to swim in,
one continuous fin from head to tail
I steered through rapids like a cone,
digging my hands in, keeping just ahead of the pace of
the river,
thinking God I’m going fast enough already, what am I,
spelling the shapes of the letters with legs and arms?


    Slooshing the Water open and


for it Meeting shut behind me

He dives, he shuts himself in a deep soft-bottomed
which underwater is all nectarine, nacreous. He lifts
the lid and shuts and lifts the lid and shuts and the sky
jumps in and out of the world he loafs in.
Far off and orange in the glow of it he drifts
all down the Deer Park, into the dished and dangerous
stones of old walls
before the weirs were built, when the sea
came wallowing wide right over these flooded

march 17/RUN

4.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
38 degrees

Surprised to see that the temperature was only 38. It seemed warmer than that. Wore less layers: black tights + black shorts + one bright yellow shirt + one bright orange sweatshirt + buff around neck + very faded black baseball cap. No gloves or hood.

Everything dripping or gushing. Heard lots of woodpeckers (not drumming, but calling), black capped chickadees, cardinals. I need to work on recognizing the sounds of other birds. Stopped at the falls after I heard them roaring and saw them spraying a fine mist into the air.

Also heard: water gushing from the 42nd st sewer pipe that I thought was wind rushing through some brittle leaves; kids playing on the playground, one of them — or was it the teacher? — calling out, “Stop! Come back! Don’t go there!” (I think “there” had two syllables).

Tried running on the walking path near the falls, but had to stop and walk: too much snow and ice. Maybe next week it will be all clear?

As I ran, I thought about the Mississippi River and how I’m always running above it, around it, beside it, but never swimming or rowing in it. On my wish list: taking a class at the rowing club and rowing down the river. I also thought about how the river is there, but I hardly ever hear it. And, in the summer, with the thick leaves, I don’t often see it. Yet, I know it’s there. Its absence has a strong presence; I feel it. I wondered as I left Minnehaha Regional Park, am I partly feeling its ghost? The ghost of the roaring, gushing, rushing, powerful river that carved out the gorge, 4 feet a year, before it was temporarily tamed starting in the mid to late 1800s?

Continuing to read Dart and about Dart. Trying to keep a delicate balance: getting some insight and understanding from secondary sources without getting too lost in them or the jargon-filled knots they create. I want some help in understanding Oswald and her methods in Dart, but I don’t want to get stuck there, unable to hold onto how her words feel sound create meaning for me. Difficult.

I love Oswald’s words about the canoeists/rowers/kayakers on page 14:

On Tuesdays we come out of the river at twilight, wet, shouting,
with canoes on our heads.

the river at ease, the river at night.

We can’t hear except the booming of our thinking in the cockpit
hollow and the river’s been so beautiful we can’t concentrate.

they walk strong in wetsuits,
their faces shine,
their well-being wants to burst out

In the water it’s another matter, we’re just shells and arms,
keeping ourselves in a fluid relation with the danger.

pond-skaters, water-beetles,
neoprene spray-decks,
many-colored helmets,

And, all of this discussion of how the river sounds:

will you swim down and attend to this foundry for

this jabber of pidgin-river
drilling these rhythmic cells and trails of scales,
will you translate for me blunt blink glint.

the way I talk in my many-headed turbulence
among these modulations, this nimbus of words kept in
sing-calling something definitely human,

will somebody sing this riffle perfectly as the invisible
sings it

can you hear them at all,
muted and plucked,
muttering something that can only be expressed as
hitting a series of small bells just under the level of your


I found this great quote from Oswald in her introduction to the poetry anthology, The Thunder Mutters: 101 Poems for the Planet:

Raking, like any outdoor work, is a more mobile, more many-sided way of knowing a place than looking. When you rake leaves for a couple of hours, you can hear right into the non-human world, it’s as if you and the trees had found a meeting point in the sound of the rake. (ix)

And this:

I think about those years of gardening every single day. It was the foundation of a different way of perceiving things. Instead of looking at landscape in a baffled, longing way, it was a release when I worked outside to feel that I was using it, part of it. I became critical of any account that was not a working account. 


Last April, when I was reading Mary Oliver, I spent some time thinking about work and labor. I’d like to think about it again, now with Oswald. For Oliver, the desire with work is to be useful to the world. For Oswald, it is to be part of it, in the midst of it, not looking at it, but using it. This work, for Oswald, is labor: gardening, fishing, trimming trees, panning for tin, etc.

Yesterday, I was talking with Scott about reading Oswald and getting inspired for my own project of documenting the Mississippi River Gorge. I said: I’m not sure what this will turn into, but I’m just happy to have become the sort of person who finds delight in Oswald’s words and in reading poetry about the river that combines myth and history and thinking critically and reverently about land and water and how and where humans and industry fit in. How wonderful it is to discover these new forms of care and curiosity!

march 16/RUN

3.1 miles
austin, mn
57! degrees

57 degrees? Wow, was I over-dressed. Shorts + tights + shirt + jacket. Ran with Scott through Austin, ending at the coffee place downtown (as usual). No snow on the ground, hardly any puddles on the sidewalk. Returned to Minneapolis in the afternoon: a mucky mess! Lots of snow and puddles. Still, spring is coming.

What a morning. After talking with one parent about anxiety, and another about the gamma ray that obliterated their small brain tumor, I only read a few pages today of Dart. Here’s some of my favorite lines:

woodman working on your own
knocking the long shadows down
and all day the river’s eyes
peep and pry among the trees

when the lithe water turns
and its tongue flatters the ferns
do you speak this kind of sound:
whirlpool whisking round?

woodman working on the crags
alone among increasing twigs
notice this, next time you pause
to drink a flask and file the saws

march 15/RUN

5.75 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
35 degrees
almost invisible streaks of ice

Almost spring! Birds, sun, the smell of fresh earth! The beginning of the run was not as fun; too many invisible slick spots from the barely melted puddles. By the end of the run, the ice was gone. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker twice. Ran down the Franklin hill then back up it, stopping for a few minutes when I encountered some ice. Settled into an easy pace that felt almost effortless. It didn’t feel a little harder until I had to climb up the Franklin hill.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the drumming of woodpeckers on different types of wood — trees, a utility pole
  2. geese, part 1: one goose, with a painful (extra mournful?) honk, flying with at least one other goose, pretty low in the sky
  3. geese, part 2: 3 geese on the path in the flats. Even though I was looking carefully, and noticed the orange cones that they were standing beside, I didn’t see the geese until I was almost next to them
  4. geese, part 3: running past these 3 geese again, I kept my distance, crossing to other end of the trail. Two of the geese were too busy rooting through the snow to notice, but the third one faced me, as if to say, “back off!”
  5. geese, part 4: as I neared lake street, there was a cacophony of honks trapped below the bridge
  6. in the flats: the fee bee call of a black-capped chickadee, both parts: the call, and the response!
  7. Daddy Long Legs sitting on his favorite bench, above the Winchell Trail, on the stretch after the White Sands Beach and before the Franklin Bridge
  8. the wind of many car wheels, then a whoosh when one passed over a puddle
  9. open water
  10. watching the traffic moving fast over the 1-35 bridge near Franklin as I ran under

Before my run, I spent the morning with Alice Oswald, gathering materials, skimming interviews, reading a few more pages of Dart. So cool to make the time to learn more about Oswald’s work and to read and think about poetry and how it might speak as/with the river. I found a wonderful article in a special issue on Alice Oswald in Interim, When Poetry “Rivers”: Reflections on Cole Swensen’s Gave and Alice Oswald’s Dart / Mary Newell. Newell says this about Oswald’s Dart:

Marginal glosses introduce workers for whom the river is a resource, interspersed with local tales, as of Jan Coo, a swimmer who drowned and “haunts the Dart,” local sayings (“Dart Dart / Every year thou / Claimest a heart”), and ancient legends from times when the local oaks participated in sacred rituals. While each voice is distinct, Oswald writes that the marginal glosses “do not refer to real people or even fixed fictions. All voices should be read as the river’s mutterings.”

I had never heard of Cole Swenson before this article. In the bibliography at the end of the essay, I discovered that she’s written a chapbook about walking and poetry! Very exciting. Here’s something she says in the introduction about walking and place:

Then sitting still, we occupy a lace; when moving through it, we displace place, putting it into motion and creating a symbiotic kinetic event in which place moves through us as well.

I’m excited to read the rest of this chapbook. As I was reflecting on the value of walking, my mind wandered, and I started to think about why I prefer running to walking in my practicing of attention. Walking opens me up, enabling me to notice new connections, access new doors, but because it involves wandering, and is fairly slow, it doesn’t offer any limits to that wondering. I get too many ideas, wander too much. With running, the effort it requires forces me to rein in some of my wanderings. I can’t think in long, meandering sentences; I need pithy statements, condensed into a few words I can remember. These limits help keep me from becoming overwhelmed with ideas. Does this make sense? I’ll think about it more when I have a chance to read Swenson’s chapbook and some of her other work.

Back to Oswald. I’m planning to read Dart several times through. This first time I don’t want to stop and think through every word or rhythm or image. Instead, I’m reading through it and noting any passage that I want to remember — that I like or surprise me or make me wonder, etc.

if you can keep your foothold, snooping down
then suddenly two eels let go get thrown
tumbling away downstream looping and linking
another time we scooped a net through sinking
silt and gold and caught one strong as bike-chain

I never pass that place and not make time
to see if there’s an eel come up the stream
I let time go as slow as moss, I stand
and try to get the dragonflies to land
their gypsy-coloured engines on my hand)

Dartmeet — a mob of waters
where East Dart smashes into West Dart

two wills gnarling and recoiling
and finally knuckling into balance

in that brawl of mudwaves
the East Dart speaks Whiteslade and Babeny

the West Dart speaks a wonderful dark fall
from Cut Hill through Whystman’s Wood

put your ear to it, you can hear water

march 14/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
run: 1.2 miles
outside: 30 degrees / light snow

Partly because I wanted to watch more Dickinson, and mostly because of the thick, wet snow that has covered the huge puddles on the sidewalk making everything a mess, I decided to bike and run inside this late morning. Before I started biking — on my bike, on a stand — I pumped up my back tire. There’s a small leak, so I’ve been pumping up the tire all winter. Finally, I have gotten the hang of my complicated pump and the strange (to me) tire nozzle!

While I biked, I watched another Dickinson episode. I stayed on the bike longer to finish it. In this one, Emily realizes (again) her Dad is a sexist jerk and that her brother Austin was right. Then she meets up with Nobody and falls through an open grave to travel to the other side of false hope. This part of the episode was difficult for me to see, it was too dark, but it looked like she was in a bizarro version of her house (with weird lighting). She ends up on a Civil War battlefield, dressed in uniform, watching as Henry calls out something like, “victory is ours!” Then, Emily sees true hope: a bird in the tree. I checked and I have 2 episodes left.

While I ran, I listened to the first three songs on Taylor Swift’s Reputation. I didn’t think about much, just moved, which I always like to do.

Yesterday, I came up with a project (or experiment?) for the rest of March. I will closely read Alice Oswald’s 48 page poem about the River Dart. It’s called Dart, and I got it for Christmas this year — after years of having it on my wishlist. I’ve wanted to read it for some time (I first mentioned it here on June, 2019) because I love rivers and Oswald and I’m very curious about how she writes about a river. Plus, after working for some time on a series of poems, then a proposal for a class, I’d like to dive deep into someone else’s words for a while.

Today, some background and a few pages. First, here’s how Oswald describes her project at the beginning of the book:

This poem is made from the language or people who live and work on the Dart. Over the past two year I’ve been recording conversations with people who know the river. I’ve used these records as life-models from which to sketch out a series of characters — linking their voices into a sound-map of the river, a singing from the source to the sea. There are indications in the margin where one voice changes into another. These do not refer to real people or even fixed fictions. All voices should be read as the river’s muttering.

Dart / Alice Oswald

In an earlier description of her project for The Poetry Society, Oswald offers more details about this project, both before and during her work on it. All of it is interesting, but I was especially intrigued by her method for combining the recordings of others talking about the river and her imagination.

I decided to take along a tape-recorder. At the moment, my method is to tape a conversation with someone who works on the Dart, then go home and write it down from memory. I then work with these two kinds of record – one precise, one distorted by the mind – to generate the poem’s language. It’s experimental and very against my grain, this mixture of journalism and imagination, but the results are exciting. Above all, it preserves the idea of the poem’s voice being everyone’s, not just the poet’s.


I’d like to try doing this with the documenting of my runs: experimenting with combining recordings with my memory/imagination of what happened.

This poem begins at the start of the east River Dart at Cranmore Pool with an old man (Old Man River? or is that an American expression?) who walks the river. Here are a few lines I especially like:

listen to the horrible keep-time of a man walking,
rustling and jingling his keys
at the centre of his own noise,
clomping the silence in pieces and I

I don’t know, all I know is walking.

What I love is one foot in front of another. South-south-west and
down the contours. I go slipping between Black Ridge and White
Horse Hill into a bowl of the moor where echoes can’t get out

Speaking of the bowl of the moor where echoes can’t get out, I found a BBC tour of the Dart. The opening lines seem to speak about that echo-trapping moor. Also, the line, “What I love is one foot in front of another,” is wonderful. I could imagine that as a poem title.

Here’s another bit that I especially like:

one step-width water
of linked stones
trills in the stones
glides in the trills
eels in the glides
in each eel a fingerwidth of sea

Here are some links to more information: