june 21/RUN

4.15 miles
the monument and back
67 degrees
humidity: 91% / dew point: 65

Yuck! The air is so thick, everything heavy with moisture. We were supposed to have thunderstorms this morning — 90% chance — so I ruled out open swim, but they haven’t happened yet. Bummer. I bet it would have been a good swim.

I ran through the neighborhood, over the lake street bridge, up the summit hill and to the monument. Then I turned around and ran back, this time running south on the river road path instead of through the neighborhood.

10 Things

  1. 3 stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  2. a strange whimpering, soft howling or moaning sound coming from under the bridge on the east side — a non-human animal? a bird?
  3. no rowers on the river
  4. a foul, rotting smell as I ran over the bridge — I thought of the rot* that Alice Oswald mentioned in “Interview with Water” and the scarlet rot that FWA told me about yesterday when he recounted some “Elden Ring lore”
  5. a dark, deep green everywhere
  6. flowers alongside the trail on the east side: green leaves, fanned like ferns, pale white or purple flowers, small, dotting the green
  7. new (or newly noticed) graffiti under the bridge on the east side — brick red, I think
  8. the dark reflections of tree in the water near the shore — so dark that they look like shadows to me
  9. the faintest trace of a sandbar under the bridge
  10. the usual puddles near shadow falls are back, almost covering the entire path

*AO and rot: “anything excessive or out of focus or subliminal — for example: a swimmer seen from underneath, a rotting smell. . .”

Here’s another Alice Oswald water poem that I uncovered in a dissertation about Oswald, Jorie Graham, and water!

Sea Sonnet/ Alice Oswald

Green, grey and yellow, the sea and the weather
instantiate each other and the spectrum
turns in it like a perishable creature.
The sea is old but the blue sea is sudden.

The wind japans the surface. Like a flower,
each point of contact biggens and is gone.
And when it rains the senses fold in four.
No sky, no sea – the whiteness is all one.

So I have made a little moon-like hole
with a thumbnail and through a blade of grass
I watch the weather make the sea my soul,
which is a space performed on by a space;

and when it rains, the very integer
and shape of water disappears in water.

Almost forgot: japan is a new word for me. Here are some definitions, both noun and verb:

noun:

  1. any of several varnishes yielding a hard brilliant finish
  2. a hard dark coating containing asphalt and a drier that is used especially on metal and fixed by heating — called also japan black

verb:

  1. to cover with or as if with a coat of japan
  2. to give a high gloss to

june 20/RUNSWIM

4.1 miles
minnehaha falls
65 degrees

Overcast this morning. Cool, but humid, sticky. Another run that wasn’t easy or effortless. Keep showing up. It will get easier or you’ll get better or it will (eventually) get cooler. I’m not too worried. Is it the lexapro, or am I just satisfied being able to get outside and move by the gorge?

10 Things

  1. the crater with the tube sock/Florida outline is gone, filled in yesterday
  2. a gnat flew in my eye — a fullness, than a small sharpness, then a watery eye, finally gone!
  3. a motorized scooter on the bike path — hey, you’re supposed to be on the road! (thought, not said)
  4. today’s color palette; green and gray
  5. dark mud, not gooey but slick
  6. laughing kids on a playground
  7. the surreys, all lined up at the falls, one being readied for a family as I ran by
  8. rushing falls, roaring creek, gushing sewer pipe near 42nd
  9. some loud rustling in the bushes
  10. passing a walker, a whiff of subdued perfume — fresh, floral / passing a biker, a sniff of cologne — fresh, earthy

At some point, looking up at the green trees, remembering green water, I thought about Alice Oswald and the connection between water and grief. Then I recalled Tony Hoagland’s poem about swimming and cancer and thought about water and relief.

a few hours later: It’s raining — a soft, light rain — right now (2:30 pm). I’m hoping that open swim will still happen at 5:30. Tomorrow it probably won’t: thunderstorms all day. Anyway, I’m continuing to listen to and think about Alice Oswald’s “Interview with Water.” Very cool! Here’s the next little bit:

Find yourself in the silence underneath an overhanging wave that or thereabouts is the color of a bluish violet ultramarine gown so the great poet sang, “But Odysseus taking his bluish gown in his big hands drew it over his head and hid his face ashamed to let the Phaeacians see his tears.” The gown goes over the head like a wave, the human sits under its sea color with salt water pouring from his eyes. It is one of those places where the form of the poem hurries us forward, the form of the language pulls us back. Porfurion is a word with water inside it like a bucket down in the middle of a line. Already if you look hard at the word you can see the widow’s simile underneath it but Homer is not yet ready to make that gift. With magnificent theatricality, he draws a blue gown across the mind and we, like the Phaeacians, are left looking at it, waiting.

Homer is the foremost poet of the visible. Homer delights in surfaces, but the surface of water is complicated by transparency, and its transparency is complicated by refraction. Water is never the same as itself. Rivers can only exist as similarities, lakes reflect more than their own volume, and what’s more, when you look at water, it allows you to exist twice but more darkly. When you look at it again it evaporates as if moving in and out of existence — it simply requires a bit of sunlight then it reappears as frost. Perfectly symmetrical as if discovering pre-drawn diagrams in thin air. Then it reappears as tears so that any attempt to describe the surface of water tells you to hide your face and inspect your innermost thoughts. All these waverings are part of the word porfurion. The physics or nature of water is metaphysical meaning that its surface expresses more than itself.

Interview with Water

All of AO’s mention of surfaces makes me want to think about surfaces during my swim. I swim on the surface, wanting to stay with my head just below as long as possible. What does the surface look like or feel like when I’m breathing every five (or more) strokes? What if I tried every 2 or 3? What is the color of the surface — from above or below?

swim: 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
68 degrees

Wow, what a perfect swimming night! The water was warmer than the air temperature. The sky was white and heavy. Everything calm, quiet. I felt fast and strong cutting through the water, breathing every 5 strokes with the occasional 3, at least once, after 2. I tried to give attention to the surface. Just under the water, I watched my hands stretch out in front of me, covered in bubbles. The water was a beautiful deep (but not dark) green, with the feeling of deep blue and gray. I could see the sediment swirling. Above the water, the surface was silver, still.


june 19/RUNSWIM

2.5 miles
2 trails
64 degrees

A quick run before meeting my college friends for lunch. Cooler today. Heard the rowers. Spotted: at least 2 bright yellow shirts, one bright pink. City (or county or park?) workers were out re-tarring a few more spots on the trail. Hooray for less craters! Last week, they finally filled in the big crack that had white spray-paint around it, making it look like a tube sock or Florida (I’ve written about it before). I wonder if they’ll finally fill in the hole that’s been getting deeper every year? The one that would definitely twist your ankle if you stepped in it. I hope so.

I don’t remember hearing any birds or roller skiers or laughing kids, but I do remember the squishy mud on the winchell trail and the bug bite I got as I walked home.

color in/on/under water

Listening to Alice Oswald’s lecture, Interview with Water, I came across this great passage about color. First she’s mentions that poets performing The Odyssey always wore blue robes, then she mentions a line from book 8:

Odysseus
with his strong hands picked up his heavy cloak
of purple, and he covered up his face.
He was ashamed to let them see him cry.
Each time the singer paused, Odysseus
wiped tears, drew down the cloak (8:84-89)

Then she references something she said a few minutes earlier —

I keep a bucket of rainwater under my window and it delights me that green leaves reflected in a black bucket are not quite green. I don’t know what color they are. At certain moments, early in the day, they might be called pre-green, but then the clouds change or the wind moves the surface mark and all at once they seem bright dark and blind silvery then foggy emerald.

— and says this:

To go back to that bucket of water — to wave a blue gown above it and ask, What is that color which Homer calls porfurium? It is not blue exactly; it gets translated as purple but purple is a settled color whereas Homer’s word is agitated. It derives from the sea verb porfurion which means to roll without breaking, so it is already a fluid word, a heaped up word, a word with underswell, not a pigment but an emanation from the nature of water. To get a true sense of porphyrion you need to see the sea in it and for Homer the sea is unhuman full of strange creatures missed colored unplowable and this is my favorite word it is a peritone meaning unfenced. If you want to imagine the colour of Odysseus’ gown you will have to swim out into the unfenced place, the place not of definitions but of affirmations. Yes I’m afraid you will have to find your way to the p volume of Johnson’s unwritten dictionary. There you will discover a dark light word an adjective for edgelessness — a sea word used also of death smoke cloth mist blood between bluish purple and cobalt mauve. It appears mid-ocean when the wind perhaps makes a network of backblowing glitters that the underswell moves sideways as when a big sea swells with noiseless waves. It is used of the heart meaning his heart was a heaving not quite broken wave. It indicates a surface but suggests a depth a mutation of flatness or noiseless sheen, a sea creature, a quality of caves, any inlet or iodine or shaded stone, a type of algae or rockfish, anything excessive or out of focus or subliminal — for example: a swimmer seen from underneath, a rotting smell, a list of low sounds, an evening shadow or sea god, a whole catalogue of simmering grudges storms waves and solitudes or deep water including everyone who has drowned in it. To be purpled is to lose one’s way or name, to be nothing, to grieve without surfacing, to suffer the effects of sea light. to be either sleepless or weightless and cut off by dreams — find yourself in the silence underneath an overhanging way that or thereabouts is the color of a bluish violet ultramarine gown so the great poet sang.

Interview with Water

Wow! So many wonderful things to do with this passage! For now, I want to think about how color works underwater. In an hour, I’m heading over to deep (at least, deeper than Lake Nokomis) Cedar Lake to swim across it. How will color work as I swim? Below water? Above? Is this agitated, moving purple similar to how I see all the time? (Yes, I think.)

swim: 4 cedar loops (= 2 nokomis loops)
cedar lake
72 degrees

The first swim at Cedar Lake! As I’ve mentioned here before, Cedar has a very different vibe than Nokomis. Hidden away, at the end of a gravel road. A small beach. No buildings, the only bathroom a port-a-potty. Chill lifeguards. Today the water was cold but (mostly) calm. Not too many swimmers. 2 lifeguards on kayaks, 2 orange buoys, too much vegetation growing up from the bottom of the lake. I overheard another swimmer mentioning the vines too.

color: Inspired by Alice Oswald, I tried to think about the color of the water. Cloudy, not clear. I could see the vines and the bubbles from my breathing and my hands entering the water but not much else. Not purple or blue but green — not dark green but pale green. Maybe some pale blue — yes — and light gray. Occasionally a shaft of light from above, a dark vine below. Textured bubbles. Not much to see, but not nothing there. Instead, everything small, packed, too dense to decipher. No color and too many colors. Impossible to pin down with “green” or “gray” or “blue.” Not grief, but uncertainty.

june 18/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
76 degrees / feels like 82
dew point: 71

Ugh! I knew it was going to be tough when I felt too hot even before I started running. More rain last night — enough to cancel our final community band concert — and more thick, sticky air this morning.

Greeted Mr. Morning! and Mr. Holiday. Saw Dave the Daily Walker but he was too far away to greet. Counted the stacked stones on the ancient boulder: 4. Heard some strange creaks below the trestle — what were people doing down there? Also heard the rowers on the river. Felt the sweat pooling on my face, my shorts sticking to my legs.

When the dew point temperature and air temperature are equal, the air is said to be saturated.

Observed Dew Point Temperature

Almost saturated — temp = 76, dew point = 71.

Looking through the trees somewhere near the trestle, I could see the river burning bright white — even the water looked hot!

Oh, this beautiful poem by Tony Hoagland! He died in 2018 (at the age of 64) from pancreatic cancer. My mom died from pancreatic cancer. It’s terrible. This poem was published in 2007.

Barton Springs/ Tony Hoagland

Oh life, how I loved your cold spring mornings
of putting my stuff in the green gym-bag
and crossing wet grass to the southeast gate
to push my crumpled dollar through the slot.

When I get my allotted case of cancer,
let me swim ten more times at Barton Springs,
in the outdoor pool at 6AM, in the cold water
with the geezers and the jocks.

With my head bald from radiation
and my chemotherapeutic weight loss
I will be sleek as a cheetah
—and I will not complain about life’s

pedestrian hypocrisies,
I will not consider death a contractual violation.
Let my cancer be the slow-growing kind
so I will have all the time I need

to backstroke over the rocks and little fishes,
looking upwards through my bronze-tinted goggles
into the vaults and rafters of the oaks,
as the crows exchange their morning gossip

in the pale mutations of early light.
It was worth death to see you through these optic nerves,
to feel breeze through the fur on my arms
to be chilled and stirred in your mortal martini.

In documents elsewhere I have already recorded
my complaints in some painstaking detail.
Now, because all things are joyful near water,
there just might be time to catch up on praise.

june 17/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
65 degrees / dew point: 61

Today’s word: saturated. What Lorine Niedecker aimed for in her water poetry. Not floating or dry but sinking and soaked.

Rain off and on all day. Maybe thunderstorms starting in the afternoon.

No rain as I ran, but everything was wet or dripping. Moist. My face, more moist than a sponge. The falls, gushing over the limestone then rushing down the gorge to the Mississippi.

Evidence of the rain and thunderstorms last night all along the trail. Above the oak savanna it looked like some creature had tore through the green, ripping small limbs and leaves off the trees and throwing them to the ground.

The parking lot at the falls was packed with cars. Not the best day to be at the falls — but maybe it was? A chance to witness the falls in full cry, I guess. Also a chance to get wet or slip in the mud. I thought I might, but didn’t.

Anything else? A black squirrel sighting, which reminded me of the line from “What Would Root”: scolded by squirrels in their priestly black

Discovered the poet, Maureen N. McLane this morning and was delighted by her serial poem about Mz. N. Requested the book from the library. Possibly an inspiration for some writing about Sara, age 8?

an excerpt from Mz N: the serial/ Maureen N. McLace

The child Mz N sat on her bed
and wondered: that tree
outside her window
shifted
when her eye
shifted. What to make
of that?

                                          §

Mz N and her siblings
had a dog for some time.
They went on vacation &
when they came back
no dog.
They asked the parents:
the dog?
who replied:
what dog?
And some people wonder
why others distrust the obvious.

Speaking of the serial poem — LN’s “Paean to Place” is considered one — here’s a helpful definition:

The serial form in contemporary poetry, however, represents a radical alternative to the epic model. The series describes the complicated and often desultory manner in which one thing follows another. Its modular form–in which individual elements are both discontinuous and capable of recombination–distinguishes it from the thematic development or narrative progression that characterize other types of the long poem. The series resists a systematic or determinate ordering of its materials, preferring constant change and even accident, a protean shape and an aleatory method. The epic is capable of creating a world through the gravitational attraction that melds diverse materials into a unified whole. But the series describes an expanding and heterodox universe whose centrifugal force encourages dispersal. The epic goal has always been encompassment, summation; but the series is an ongoing process of accumulation. In contrast to the epic demand for completion, the series remains essentially and deliberately incomplete.

Seriality and the Contemporary Long Poem/ Joseph Conte

I had to look up a few words from this excerpt that I wasn’t quite sure of:

desultory: marked by lack of definite plan/purpose, not connected to main subject
protean: displaying great diversity or variety, versitle
aleatory: relating to luck, depending on an uncertain event or contingency

This idea of a serial poem as “an ongoing process of accumulation” is very cool and fits with my approach to Haunts and a story in long form.

june 15/RUN

5 miles
bottom franklin hill and back
72 degrees / dew point: 60

Whew! I was sure the dew point would be even higher. It felt very uncomfortable out there. And difficult. But I kept moving and didn’t push myself too hard. I ran to the bottom of the hill then walked up it. Then ran, walked, ran until I was back to the ancient boulder — no stones stacked on it today.

Last night RJP graduated from high school. I’m very proud of her for surviving it. I’m proud of myself too. It was very hard and I am tired. No more k-12 public school! Hooray! I loved many of the teachers and the music programs, but I won’t miss being subject to this schooling process.

RJP’s graduation was delayed by almost an hour because a fight broke out at the previous school’s graduation and someone was hauled away in an ambulance. FWA said he saw the guy, and he looked like he was probably fine and not in much pain. Other than the delay, the graduation was great. The awesome poet Bao Phi gave the address — so good! He, along with the student speakers, centered the experiences of BIPOC students.

10 Things

  1. white sky
  2. dark green mystery
  3. at least 2 specks in the sky — a plane? a bird?
  4. click clack — roller skiers powering up the franklin hill
  5. foamy water
  6. glowing orange shoes on a runner
  7. voices below near white sands beach
  8. one runner to another: well, that killed about an hour and a half — huh?
  9. a greeting from Mr. Holiday!
  10. a few days ago I mentioned something in orange spray painted on the sidewalk — it’s the outline of a cat (but not Garfield, I think?)

a section from Winter Ridge/ Lorine Niedecker

Reading (again, for the 3rd or 4th time?) LN’s “Wintergreen Ridge,” I was delighted by her connections and associations:

Women saved
a pretty thing: Truth:

“a good to the heart”
It all comes down
to the family

“We have a lovely
finite parentage
mineral

vegetable
animal”
Nearby dark wood—

I suddenly heard
the cry
my mother’s

where the light
pissed past
pistillate cone

how she loved
closed gentians
she herself

so closed
and in this to us peace
the stabbing

pen
friend did it
close to the heart

pierced the woods
red
(autumn?)

Sometimes it’s a pleasure
to grieve

june 13/RUNSWIM

5 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
70 degrees / dew point: 60

Overcast, which helped it feel a little less warm. Sticky, thick air. A lot of sweat, especially on my face. Dripping ponytail. So green even the air was green. Greeted the Welcoming Oaks — hello friends! Descended into the tunnel of trees and was enveloped in green. Chanted triple trees: sycamore/sycamore/sycamore/red oak leaf/silver birch. Heard the rowers through the trees. Admired the barely moving, calm water under the bridge — the surface was dotted with foam and reflected clouds. Saw a speck in the sky out of the corner of my eye. Tried to look at it, gone. Tried again, a plane almost covered in fog. Saw a dark ring around it — my ring scotoma? Appreciated how the outline of the treetops on either side of the river road echoed the shape of the river banks. Walked up the hill — it took me 7 minutes — then ran, walked, ran back. Ended with a dozen roller skiers above me while I climbed out of the tunnel of trees.

For the first mile, in the dark green quiet, everything was dreamy. Thought again about how running puts me in a strange, surreal state. Nothing quite real. Then thought about Lorine Niedecker and the physical act of seeing with messed up eyes and using the poetic form to represent that. I’m not aware of how my eyes move as I see except for when I look to the peripheral as a way for my central vision to see something. I imagine having nystagmus makes you more easily register the movement of your eyes. How conscious was LN of her eye movement and how it was mimicked in her lines? When I think about how I see — the mechanics of it and its physicality — I think more about what happens when the corrupt or limited data travels as electrical impulses through the optic nerve and to the brain. Are the effects of nystagmus primarily physical — strain on eyes, the rapid movement creating dizziness and headaches? I should read more about it. . . . The physical impact of my vision sometimes reads as dizziness and light-headedness, but mostly it’s just a vague sense of unease and fatigue — more naps. I rarely feel the eye strain or get headaches from my effort.

In the article I was reading about LN’s nystagmatic poetics, this poem was discussed:

Tattoo/ Wallace Stevens

The light is like a spider.

It crawls over the water.

It crawls over the edges of the snow.

It crawls under your eyelids

And spreads its webs there—

Its two webs.

The webs of your eyes

Are fastened

To the flesh and bones of you

As to rafters or grass.

There are filaments of your eyes

On the surface of the water

And in the edges of the snow.

note at 11 am: Today is my first day of open swim! After the swim, I’ll return to this entry.

I’m spending the afternoon on the deck, reading Niedecker and thinking about Alice Oswald and Niedecker and my Haunts poems. Here are some jumbled thoughts:

You have been in my mind/between my toes/agate — Lake Superior/LN

You’ve been in
my mind

beneath my
feet Mom

Look for me under your boot-soles — Walt Whitman

Ars Poetica/ Arcelis Girmay

May the poems be
the little snail’s trail.

Everywhere I go,
every inch: quiet record

of the foot’s silver prayer.
             I lived once.
             Thank you. 
             I was here.

“We a lovely/finite parentage/mineral/vegetable/animal” — Wintergreen/ LN

I’m interested in how many layers you can excavate in personality. At the top it’s all quite named. But you go down through the animal and the vegetable and then you get to the mineral. At that level of concentration you can respond to the non-human by half turning into it.

Alice Oswald interview for Falling Awake

To write a poem is to be a maker. And to be a maker is to be down in the muck of making and not always to fly so high above the muck.

Poetry is Not a Project/ Dorothy Lasky

We can’t float or fly for long, above. We are part of the muck, not stuck but entangled, beholden

to work down/ to ocean’s black depths/us us an impulse tests/the unknown — Paean to Place/ LN

2 loops / 1.5 miles
lake nokomis open swim
80 degrees

Open swim! Open swim! I was nervous before the swim, wondering if I would see the buoys. I did! The water felt wonderful — a little cold, but not too cold, and wavy but not choppy. I watched the sun filtering through the water, avoided the vegetation growing up from the bottom and the swan boat stuck right by the orange buoy. That menacing swan was a little too close as I neared the buoy. The last green buoy was so far from the orange buoy — it seemed to take forever to reach the beginning of the loop. Oh, I love open swim and what joy to have had a good first swim!

june 11/RUN

4.5 miles
veterans home and back
56 degrees

Still struggling with endurance, still showing up. How much of this is mental, how much physical? The million dollar question, as my dad used to say. I think it’s both, but probably more mental. Maybe the lexapro is already kicking in, but my struggles aren’t bothering me. After the run I thought, these struggles will make showing up at the marathon start line, then finishing 4-5 hours later, much more meaningful.

It rained this morning, so everything was wet, even the air. Everything was also green. Green green green. Any other colors? Nope, not much to break up the green. Green green green green green.

10 Things

  1. lush green, dark, on the part of the path that goes below the road
  2. puddles
  3. a woman ahead of me, running, wearing only one compression sleeve on her right calf
  4. a group of kids walking to the playground at minnehaha
  5. a much bigger group of kids walking near 42nd — a long line, 3 across, took me 10 or 15 or more? seconds to pass them
  6. gushing water near the ravine by the oak savanna
  7. the bright yellow crosswalk sign — my bee — was muted in the gray sky
  8. crossing the bridge high above the creek, all green, no view of the water below
  9. lush green, dark, on the steep hill descending to the locks and dam no 1
  10. a pile of e-bikes parked near a bench — black with blue accents

paean to place/ lorine niedecker

Before my run, I started writing out, by hand, Niedecker’s poem. It’s so long! My hand started cramping up. I had to write slowly to account for my visual errors, like not seeing the words I’ve already written and writing words almost over them or above them instead of below them. The slow work is good, giving me time with each word and line.

Here’s one line I’d like to make note of:

Not hearing sora
rails’s sweet

spoon-tapped waterglass-
descending scale-
tear-drop-tittle

I wondered, what does a sora sound like, so I looked it up and listened. Yes, it sounds like LN described! Listen here to calls 1 and 2.

june 10/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls
60 degrees

Ah, summer mornings! Beautiful. Cooler. If I would have slept better, I would have tried to go out even earlier. The first half of the run felt good, then I got hot and it got harder. Today I didn’t worry about what that meant for my training. Instead, I enjoyed the brief minutes of walking, taking in the trees at the falls — so green! so full!

10 Things

  1. the falls, flowing, white, undulating — the water not falling straight, but almost falling over itself — was it hitting some limestone on the way down?
  2. a bundle of something on the ground next to the dirt trail — a hammock?
  3. 2 women with tall hiking packs on their backs walking on the paved path
  4. some animal — a turkey? — upset, calling out, a human voice saying something — hey?
  5. a flash below the double bridge — a sliver of creek almost covered by green
  6. 2 roller skiers near locks and dam no 1
  7. the dirt trail cutting through the small wood near ford bridge looking cool and inviting
  8. happy kids on the minnehaha park playground — happy: green voices, where green = young, outside, tender
  9. (walking back, about to cross 46th ave at 37th street) 2 older women chatting, then greeting me, oh! hello!
  10. (walking back almost to my alley) heard on a radio or from a phone or a computer in neighbor’s backyard, the next one is Scandia — was this talk radio or a zoom meeting or what?

Lorine Niedecker and “Paean to Place”

to dwell with a place:

What is required, however, is sensual, embodied experience—close encounters of awe, wonder, fright, disgust, or even tedium—which remind us both of the real earth with which we dwell, and that we share our home with innumerable cohabitants.

Dwelling with Place: Lorine Niedecker’s Ecopoetics

opening to “Paean to Place”:

Fish
fowl
flood
Water lily mud
My life

in the leaves and on water
My mother and I
born
in swale and swamp and sworn
to water

My father
thru marsh fog
sculled down
from high ground
saw her face

at the organ
bore the weight of lake water
and the cold—
he seined for carp to be sold
that their daughter

might go high
on land
to learn

Wow! Reading this opening, I’m thinking about the Objectivists and the Imagists and Ezra Pound’s 3 rules for writing poetry:

  1. Direct treatment of the “thing,” whether subjective or objective
  2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome

What condensery and music in these lines! And what wonderfully effective descriptions of two people dwelling in and with a particular place, especially her mother, born in swale and swamp and bearing the weight of lake water and the cold.

definition of ecopoetics:

The word itself is an amalgam of two Greek words: oikos [household or family] and poïesis [making, creating, or producing], so that ecopoeticsquite literally means the creation of a dwelling place, or home-making. The term came into special prominence after the influential British literary critic Jonathan Bate published The Song of the Earth in 2000. There, Bate defined ecopoetics as a critical practice in which the central tasks are to ask “in what respects a poem may be a making … of the dwelling-place” and to “think about what it might mean to dwell upon the earth.”

Dwelling with Place: Lorine Niedecker’s Ecopoetics

LN’s opening lines and her descriptions of her parents, reminds me of Mary Oliver’s The Leaf and the Cloud and her brief mentions of her parents in the first section, “Flare.” LN and MO have different experiences but they rhyme, somehow, or echo?

My mother
was the blue wisteria,
my mother
was the mossy stream out behind the house,
my mother, alas, alas,
did not always love her life,
heavier than iron it was
as she carried it in her arms, from room to room,
oh, unforgettable!

Like LN, MO was also an amazing poet of place, but she doesn’t extend her ideas of place to her parents — a deliberate severing:

I mention them now,
I will not mention them again.

It is not lack of love
nor lack of sorrow.
But the iron thing they carried, I will not carry.

So much to say about that iron, but I have run out of time right now. Perhaps more later. . .

I’m back. First, the not carrying the iron makes me think of my mom and her desire for displacement from her abusive parents. More than once she said to me that she wanted to break that cycle of abuse — and she did. And I am grateful. But there’s something to explore here for me and my relationship to place, this place 4 miles from where my mom was born and raised, that I can’t quite get at yet.

The iron also reminds me of the wonderful lines from the opening of LN’s “Lake Superior”:

In every part of every living thing
is stuff that once was rock

In blood the minerals
of the rock

*

Iron the common element of earth

Both MO and LN write about their fathers. First, MO:

My father
was a demon of frustrated dreams,
was a breaker of trusts,
was a poor, thin boy with bad luck.
He followed God, there being no one else
he could talk to;
he swaggered before God, there being no one else
who would listen.

and LN:

He could not
—like water bugs—
stride surface tension
He netted
loneliness. . .

. . . Anchored here
in the rise and sink
of life—
middle years’ nights
he sat

beside his shoes
rocking his chair
Roped not “looped
in the loop
of her hair”

The “looped” quote comes from William Butler Yeats and his poem, Brown Penny and it’s about love. I like how she throws in this line from poets or about poets, like this:

Grew riding the river
Books
at home-pier
Shelly would steer
as he read

I noticed another line of the poem in quotes, “We live by the urgent wave/of the verse.” Looked it up and found an article about “Paean to Place” and thanks to my college-attending son, I have access to it! Time to read it: Lorine Niedecker’s “Paean to Place” and its Fusion Poetics


june 9/RUN

3.7 miles
trestle turn around
65 degrees

Warm and windy. Lots of sweat. Another day of telling myself to keep showing up. A hard run with lots of walking. But, one faster, freer mile, and some scattered thoughts that might lead to something! I’ll take it.

11 Things

  1. under the lake street bridge, the side of the road was packed with parked cars — rowers?!
  2. yes, rowers: heard the coxswain calling out instructions
  3. briefly watched the rowers through a gap in the trestle: a head, an oar, a boat gliding by
  4. ran into a branch while avoiding another runner, just a few inches from my eye, imagined a scenario in my head where the branch had cut my eye
  5. in the tunnel of threes: a sea of swaying green
  6. a woman stretching in the 35th street parking lot, blasting music out of her phone
  7. wind pushing me from behind, making my ponytail swing to one side
  8. a cartoonish figure spray-painted on the sidewalk: bright orange outline
  9. loud rustling in the nearby brush then a hiker emerging from below
  10. whoooosssshhh — the wind rushing through the trees
  11. dragonflies? running near the trestle, an insect with a long, narrow body and wings almost flew into my mouth — no iridescent color, no color. Later, pausing at the top of the steps, I saw half a dozen of them. They opened and closed their wings in the sun

Yesterday, I decided that the theme of color or green wasn’t working for me this month. Instead, I’d like to return (again) to Lorine Niedecker. I’m particularly interested in her form of condensing and how I might apply it to my Haunts poems. Yes, the haunts poems are haunting me again. Before heading out for my run, I found a few lines from LN’s “Paean to Place,” that I especially like:

 grew in green
slide and slant
of shore and shade

            Child-time—wade
thru weeds

Maples to swing from
Pewee-glissando

      sublime
 slime-
song

A few times, I recited the first big: I grew in green/slide and slant/of shore and shade. As I thought about those lines I wondered what I grew up in. Green, for sure, but not by water. Then it came to me: I grew up on the edge of green in subdivisions that butted up against farms and woods, creeping, consuming those green spaces. I also grew up in carefully managed and cultivated green — bike paths through small stretches of trees offering the illusion of nature, privately owned by the subdivision. A very different green than the rural green of my dad’s farm in the UP or the urban green of my mom here by the Mississippi River. I thought about the managed green I run by and the difference between it, a public, national park, and the managed green of my suburban childhood, with its private green parks and private (No Trespassing!) acres of farm land, soon to be sold and converted into more “little boxes.”

Yes! The green I grew in was in-between col-de-sacs, and within small ravines and the slight stretches of trees or creeks developers left for aesthetic reasons. This green has deeply influenced my understanding of the wild and “green” spaces and is one reason why I’m fascinated by the management of nature.