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: