feb 26/WALK

40 minutes
to the river and back
57 degrees

A warm, windy February afternoon. Took a walk with Delia the dog and Scott. Heard some kids on the playground that I mistook for a siren. Then later, heard some actual sirens. Also heard some ragtime music coming from a bike on the path. Marveled at the gnarled oaks and the jagged shadow one cast on another branchless tree. Noticed how high the bluff was above the forest floor. Encountered many happy, chatting walkers, one runner without a shirt.

It’s Windy

Is it the strange, too-early spring weather? The fact that I’m turning 50 in 4 months and that my kids are turning 21 and 18? Not sure, but my thoughts have been scattered lately, flitting from one idea to the next without landing anywhere for too long. Maybe it’s the wind. This morning I said to Scott, what a beautiful morning! Too bad it’s windy. Then Scott started singing “Windy” by the Association — I tried to join in, but I was in the wrong key (as usual). I should have a t-shirt that says, I’m always in the wrong key, I said (which, I think, isn’t always a bad thing to be in). Anyway, I decided to listen to the song and read the lyrics. It’s actually about wind! How delightful!

Who’s tripping down the streets of the city
Smilin’ at everybody she sees
Who’s reachin’ out to capture a moment
Everyone knows it’s Windy

And Windy has stormy eyes
That flash at the sound of lies
And Windy has wings to fly
Above the clouds (above the clouds)
Above the clouds (above the clouds)

I think I might create a page of wind poems/songs and add this, along with “They call the wind Mariah” from Paint Your Wagon and “I Take to the Wind” by King Crimson.

an idea (for the future? now?): Yesterday I posted a poem that uses an Emily Dickinson line in the title (I heard a fly buzz), then obliquely references her in the poem. A year or so ago, I had the idea that I’d like to write a series of poems that use some of my favorite Emily Dickinson lines as titles for my poems about vision loss, how I see, and how I’ve been carving out a new way of being with my moving practice. I’ve already written one that was published this past December in the print journal, Door is a Jar:

The Motions of the Dipping Birds/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Because I can no longer see
her face, when my daughter talks I watch

her small hands rise and fall,
sweep the air, flutter.

I marvel at the soft feathers her fingers make
as they soar then circle then settle

on the perch of her hips waiting
to return to the sky for another story.

I think Victoria Chang’s collection, The Trees Witness Everything, in which she uses W.S. Merwin poem titles and then writes her own poem, might be a good inspiration. I’ve been wanting to do this project for several years, but I wasn’t quite ready. Am I now? I’ve already been moving towards it with my interest in memorizing 50 Emily Dickinson poems before my 50th birthday — did I mention that in here, or was it just in my “to do” list? Oh, I hope this idea sticks and helps me to write more poetry. Lately, I’ve had tons of ideas that I start, but that really don’t go anywhere.

As part of this Dickinson project, and inspired by yesterday’s poem, I decided to memorize ED’s “I heard a fly buzz — when I died”. After memorizing it, I listened to someone else’s reading of it and noticed a line change:

[original] The stillness in the Room
[alternate in video] The stillness round my form

Which is correct, I wondered. At first, I thought the alternate might be the correct one, but it didn’t seem quite right — form neatly rhymes with the last line of the verse: Between the Heaves of Storm. ED liked slant rhymes, not straight ones. I looked it up and discovered that ED’s first editor, Mabel Loomis Todd, had changed the line to form. She also took out ED’s dashes. I’ve read about the fraught relationship between ED and Todd (who was ED’s brother’s lover) and Todd’s heavy-handed editing, so I’m sticking with the original!

medical term fun!

I’m still working with g a s t r o c n e m i u s and s o l e u s scrabble tiles. Last night’s favorite:

Guess a minute’s colors

I told RJP and she said, 7:42 is yellowish-green. Do I see any particular minute’s colors? No. But I do like trying to describe what colors I see at any given minute.

What happens when I reverse 2 words: Guess a color’s minutes?
Or, Minutes colors a guess?
Or, As color, minutes guess
Or, minutes: a color’s guess (as in, meeting minutes)
Or, a guess colors minutes

Back to ED’s buzzing fly. Whenever I read this poem, I think about an article I discovered a few years ago that discusses how accurately and effectively ED describes the physiology of the dying eye — 15 march 2021

feb 18/RUN

5.8 miles
down the franklin and back
31 degrees

A little icy, a little windy, a little crowded. Difficult to run together in these conditions, so Scott and I split up. The sun was bright and I saw some wonderful shadows of trees — gnarled and sprawling across the sky. Heard some geese, smelled some bacon.

When we ran together, Scott and I talked about the half frozen river and how it looked like a gray slushy. What flavor is gray slushy, I wondered. Scott suggested, all the flavors then added, I bet that would taste good. I wondered if this “everything” slushy would include blueberry. No, Scott said, blue raspberry. I mentioned how there is no consensus on the origins of the rasp in raspberry, which I had come across while reading a past entry a few days ago.

How I See

As I continue to work on this project, I want to return to ekphrastic poems. In an article for Lithub — Back to School for Everyone: Ekphrastic Poetry with Victoria Chang — Chang offers some helpful thoughts about the form:

how poets engage with visual art:

  • write about the scene or subject being depicted in the artwork
  • write in the voice of the person or object represented
  • write about their personal experiences
  • fictionalizing a scene within the art
  • write about the work in the context of its socio-political history

In essence, ekphrastic poems are a way to interact with the world and a way to respond to the world. The process of writing ekphrastic poetry also brings into question aspects of viewing, the culture of viewing, and the gaze, always asking the questions of who is looking at what, when, and why?

3 thoughts about Ekphrasis

1: I’m as interested in how someone is looking as who, what, when, or why they are looking.

2: Maybe part of the ekphrasis angle is the idea that sometimes the world looks like a painting to me — pointillism or abstract expressionism or?

3: the contrast between how a photo captures/stills the image in a way that my eyes never can

A view from the ford bridge, poorly framed. Not sure what color other people might see here, but to me it's all gray: light gray sky and river, broken up by chunks of dark gray trees. I like how the sky and the river look almost the same color to me.
8 nov 2023

original description: A view from the ford bridge, poorly framed. Not sure what color other people might see here, but to me it’s all gray: light gray sky and river, broken up by chunks of dark gray trees. I like how the sky and the river look almost the same color to me.

5 nouns/ 5 adjectives/ 5 verbs

nouns: river, water, shore, trees, sky, branches, a bend, surface
adjectives: winding, scraggly, soft, fuzzy, drab, dark, light, gray, wide, flat, contrast, wide
verb: stretching, reaching, standing, stilled, separated, cutting through,\

one sentence about the most important thing in image: The sky and the river are the same color; only the disruption of trees enables me to distinguish between them.

a second sentence about the second most important thing: Everything gray: light gray sky and river, broken up by chunks of dark gray trees.

a third sentence about the third most important thing: In this soft, wide open view, when everything is stilled, silent, nothing is happening.

The nothing that’s happening in this image is full of meaning. Here nothing = no things are doing anything/ nothing to see; nothing = a void, absence, unknowingness; nothing = a rest for my eyes, no movement, everything still, satisfied, stable.

The idea of no separation, no edges or divisions between forms, reminds me of a wonderful poem that I thought I’d posted already, but hadn’t. I think when I first encountered it a few years ago, it didn’t resonate for me. Now, I want to call out, yes!, with almost every line.

Monet Refuses the Operation/ Lisel Muller

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

feb 8/RUN

5.3 miles
ford loop
47 degrees

Hooray for feeling strong and happy and unbothered by the wind! A good run, even though it feels strange with no snow. Scott told me it’s 5 degrees warmer here in Minneapolis than it is where we used to live in Upland, California. Wow.

Starting last night and lingering through the morning: rain. Not snow, but rain. Everything was wet and muddy and slippery. At the end of my run I noticed that I had specks of mud on my shirt — how did that happen?

Around mile 3, as I ran straight into the wind, a biker approached from behind. I heard her call out Fast! I wasn’t sure what to say, so I said, there’s a lot of wind! She agreed. Later I encountered the biker on the ford bridge — she was walking her bike while I was still running — There’s goes that fast runner! I waved and smiled. I did a lot of smiling at every person I encountered.

a strange winter sight: roller skiers, one of them wearing shorts!

Talked with Dave, the Daily Walker about how I’m missing the snow. He agreed, but only when it’s windy and there’s lots of snow and no one else out on the trail. Then it’s fun, he said. His version of fun is one reason why I like Dave so much.

Took 2 pictures of my view. Both are just south of the double bridge and the Horace W.S. Cleveland Overlook. Here’s one of them:

My view from above the gorge: bare limbed trees, all trunk and thin branches. A few trunks are thick -- like the one near the center of the image or the one leaning on the left side -- but most are thin, creating a transparent screen between runner (me) and river. The ground, in the bottom third of the picture, is mostly dead, curled-up brown leaves.
My view from above the gorge: bare limbed trees, all trunk and thin branches. A few trunks are thick — like the one near the center of the image or the one leaning on the left side — but most are thin, creating a transparent screen between runner (me) and river. The ground, in the bottom third of the picture, is mostly dead, curled-up brown leaves. Sometimes, this is what I see even when there aren’t thin, bare branches everywhere — my view slightly obscured by something in the way — dead cone cells, I think — creating fuzz or static or a slight pulsing or wavering of lines. Also, if this picture were in black and white I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Often I have to ask Scott: is this in color or black and white?

peripheral: how I see

before the run

Before my run, while I was reviewing my Oct 2023 log entries and encountering several of my “how I see” photos, it came to me: this should be the new version of my vision poems. I want to study the ekphrasis form (An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning — def). Then I want to write a series of “how I see” poem/descriptions. These will be about experimenting with the form and exploring ways to describe how I see. I wrote in my notes: not about what I can’t see, but what I can. I’m also interested in experimenting with the idea of alt-text as form — I have a few sources for this. I’ll read some Georgina Kleege and her latest book, More Than Meets the Eye. These poems will be practical — describing the literal way I see — but also poetic — strange, unsettling, more than a report.

I’m thinking that these poems would involve describing what I see in the photo and what I saw when I was taking the photo. Also, they’re as much about HOW I see (the mechanics/process) as WHAT I see. I love this idea; I hope it sticks!

some sources:

during the run

While I ran lots of different thoughts flashed. First I thought about Marie Howe and the idea of observing and not looking away. Describing what you see with details not metaphors. Then I thought about how “looking” works for me, how it’s harder because of what I can and can’t see. How much can any of us (no matter where we are on the spectrum of seeing/blind) actually see? Then I started thinking about Huidobro’s poem, “Natural Forces” and all of the different glances he describes — One glance to shoot down the albatross. What do my different glances see?

right after the run

During my walk back home, I thought more about how I see (and spoke those thoughts into my phone). I was reminded of Robin Wall Kimmerer and her chapter, “Learning to See” in Becoming Moss. It’s about how we can learn to see the small things — like moss — that were invisible to us before.

I also thought about how I’m interested in the process we use to see and how that shapes what we see and how it enhances or detracts from our ability to behold/witness. Yes! This connects back to Ross Gay and beholding, which I discussed on here a few years ago.

I’m interested in how we sense without seeing, or how we see with our other senses (like sound). And I’m interested in thinking about how vision isn’t the primary mode in which we understand and make sense of things. It is only one of many ways, not THE way.


The verbal representation of visual representation.

Basically, an ekphrasis is a literary description of art. Like other kinds of imagery, ekphrasis paints a picture with words. What makes it different from something like pictorialism is that the picture it paints is itself a picture: ekphrasis stages an encounter between representations in two mediums, one visual and one verbal.

What is Ekphrasis?

key feature of an exphrasis poem: it engages with an artistic representation — does this fit for my project? I think so, especially if I make the taking of the photo as part of the description.

Another helpful definition of Ekphrasis from Poets.org:

Ekphrasis is the use of vivid language to describe or respond to a work of visual art.


The purpose of ekphrasis was to describe a thing with such detail that the reader could envision it as if it were present. 

I’m interested in using language to help others experience how/what I see.

jan 13/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
run: 1.15 miles
outside: 7 degrees / feels like -10

A short run today because I’ve run every day this week so far, and because it’s windy and snowy and cold outside. Watched the first 20 minutes of Jennifer Lawrence’s comedy, No Hard Feelings, while I biked. I like her and I’m finding this movie funny so far. I listened to Taylor Swift’s Reputation while I ran. Tried out my new bright yellow shoes for the first time. I like how they feel and how they look. Quite possibly they will be the shoes I wear when I run the marathon next October. I don’t remember thinking about much as I ran — I focused on my arm swing and staying relaxed and lifting my hips. We turned the treadmill the other way a few months ago so now I won’t see my inverted moon on the dark window anymore. What strange image will replace it? I don’t remember any today. But I’ll have to look for one the next time I run on the treadmill, which will probably be on Monday; it might be arctic hellscape cold then.

Emily Dickinson’s Windows

Here are some useful ideas from an article — Emily Dickinson’s Windows — I found yesterday, which seems to be an extended version of an article I read a few days ago:

  • creative freedom
  • architectural prop: By my Window, The Angle of a Landscape
  • her envelope poems resembled a window with curtains
  • a magic lens — the warped quality of 19th century windows: the world let loose, nature liquefied — her practice of looking/writing — up and out the window/down at the paper — descriptions as incremental fragments (A Slash of Blue! A Sweep of Gray!)
  • the window grid creates a pattern — 12 panes — reflected in the formal structure of her poems (degrees, steps, notches, plunges) — each word, line, or stanza is well-defined slot/pane that spotlights an image/emotional state/quality of experience — ’Tis this – invites – appalls – endows – Flits – glimmers – proves – dissolves – Returns – suggests – convicts – enchants Then – flings in Paradise – (Fr 285)
  • an act of undoing in each pane — nature loosening up (a neat frame in a formless center)
  • each pane a diagram of rapture
  • looking through/touching the glass, she connected with the artisans who made it, who left evidence of their labor –warps and striations that were once the artisan’s breath (windows made through glass blowing? wow)
  • glass blowing and imagery of fiery furnaces, metal flames, boiling, white heat
  • mid 19th century — glass consciousness
  • ED’s poems as her own form of glass blowing — creative process of transforming words into poems = making sand into glass into windows

the window grid creates a pattern — 12 panes — reflected in the formal structure of her poems (degrees, steps, notches, plunges) — ’Tis this – invites – appalls – endows – Flits – glimmers – proves – dissolves – Returns – suggests – convicts – enchants Then – flings in Paradise – (Fr 285)

I love this idea of how the windows influenced the form of her writing. Also, the combination of the orderliness/structure of the frame and the unruliness/undoing-ness of her words. It might be fun to use my windows — 2 sets with 2 panes each, a bar in-between the windows, one set in front, one to my right side — as the structure for a few experiments. As I write this, I’m thinking about Victoria Chang’s truck moving across each window frame and Wendell Berry’s black criss-crossed frame.

Here’s a wonderful ED poem that is mentioned in the article:

By my Window have I for Scenery (797) / Emily Dickinson

By my Window have I for Scenery
Just a Sea—with a Stem—
If the Bird and the Farmer—deem it a “Pine”—
The Opinion will serve—for them—

It has no Port, nor a “Line”—but the Jays—
That split their route to the Sky—
Or a Squirrel, whose giddy Peninsula
May be easier reached—this way—

For Inlands—the Earth is the under side—
And the upper side—is the Sun—
And its Commerce—if Commerce it have—
Of Spice—I infer from the Odors borne—

Of its Voice—to affirm—when the Wind is within—
Can the Dumb—define the Divine?
The Definition of Melody—is—
That Definition is none—

It—suggests to our Faith—
They—suggest to our Sight—
When the latter—is put away
I shall meet with Conviction I somewhere met
That Immortality—

Was the Pine at my Window a “Fellow
Of the Royal” Infinity?
Apprehensions—are God’s introductions—
To be hallowed—accordingly—

The pine tree as a sea with a stem? I love this idea!

jan 5/RUN

5.15 miles
bottom of franklin hill turn around
30 degrees

Yes! A great run. A brief runner’s high around mile 4. At the beginning it felt cold, but almost early spring-like: chirping birds, soft shadows, humid air, clear paths. In certain spots the path was dotted with ice.

Passed a group of 4 or 5 runners twice. Smelled cigarette smoke. Watched a car driving over the I-94 bridge. Listened to the group of women laughing, cars passing, ice sizzling heading north. Put it Billie Eilish essentials on the way back — maybe I’m, maybe I’m, maybe I’m the problem.

Something to try today, from Richard Siken: one image

The heart of lyric poetry is music and image. Music is hard to talk about but image is easy. It’s not too late to start an exercise. Write down one image every day that was striking. It’s good as a resource to pull from for writing or just for remembering. Date them. >

Today’s image: sizzling ice on the river chunks? sheets? just starting to form, floating on the surface. I took a video:

ice on the mississippi / 5 jan 2024

Standing there, holding my phone, the ice was moving slowly downstream and sizzling. In the video, I can’t see it moving and all I can hear is the traffic from the I-94 bridge just above. I wish I just kept the phone still; it’s moving around too much. The sizzle sounded like the sizzle I heard in my head after I fainted last week. A sizzle or crackle or static-y sound. The movement of the ice was slow and gentle and persistent (or insistent?).

windows and doors

Yesterday, it came to me: windows and doors. That’s what the theme for January should be. Will it stick? Not sure, but today I begin by thinking about windows and doors as I ran. I held onto a few thoughts and recorded them into my phone right after I finished my run:

Windows as in the frame and how often I see what’s just outside of the frame because I feel it off to the far edge (mainly because of my heightened peripheral vision).

A door as being open — focus on what’s through the other door, the room on the other side, as opposed to the door as framing what you see. Whereas the window is about the frame and about this thing in between you and the is/real. The frame is language, our access to the real. The framing of something as a useful limitation, helping to focus a form. The window is a form where the energy goes, where it’s held in, so the poem still has heat.

I’ve collected door and window poems before on this log, so this isn’t a new idea, I’m just adding to it. Here’s a door and window poem for today — actually, an excerpt from an amazing poem by Victoria Chang:

excerpt from Today/ Victoria Chang

Today the river is in crisis, no
horizon dares to go near it. Today
my father is in a small jar. At dusk,
I went into a painter’s studio,
saw his stretched canvas on the table, white,
empty. What are we without those who made
us? May his memory be your blessing,
people emailed me all week. The artist
was painting a series of doors, which were
so real that I walked through the one that was
slightly open. Inside the room was my
breath that I had held since January
13, an eyelid, a loose eyeball, the
knob the eye fell on, the girl’s hands that tried
to catch him, which were charred and still waving.

The white truck went from one frame to the next
and I thought of the time when someone lied
about me. How day and night I cared so
much about the lie that it split into
two, one part went out the left window frame,
the other out the right. Like the blue car
that disappears at the same time as the
white one, yet I can see both at once. When
they burned my father’s body, I wondered
if the eyeballs spread so far on each side
that they could see Wyoming, these two panes,
me on a small brown chair, looking out the
windows, waiting for oblivion to
travel through with its eighteen wheels and truth.

At the beginning of our family tree
was hope. Or maybe it was just an owl.

The same wind was blowing here eighty years
ago, always snapping families in half.

If I keep the window closed, I am stuck
inside with language as it buzzes back
and forth, trying to get out and start wars.

First, so much of what she writes here (and in the rest of the poem) is echoed in other things I read earlier today and yesterday by Viola Cordova and Jake Skeets. Wow.

Second, at the beginning of the poem, Chang writes: On Kawara’s “Today” Series. Looked it up and found: Paintings: Today Series / Date Paintings

On January 4, 1966, On Kawara began his Today series, or Date Paintings. He worked on the series for nearly five decades. A Date Painting is a monochromatic canvas of red, blue, or gray with the date on which it was made inscribed in white. Date Paintings range in size from 8 x 10 inches to 61 x 89 inches. The date is composed in the language and convention of the place where Kawara made the painting. When he was in a country with a non-Roman alphabet, he used Esperanto. He did not create a painting every day, but some days he made two, even three. The paintings were produced meticulously over the course of many hours according to a series of steps that never varied. If a painting was not finished by midnight, he destroyed it. The quasi-mechanical element of his routine makes the production of each painting an exercise in meditation.1 Kawara fabricated a cardboard storage box for each Date Painting. Many boxes are lined with a cutting from a local newspaper. Works were often given subtitles, many of which he drew from the daily press.

Paintings: Today Series / Date Paintings

In the article, I also found this classroom activity suggestion:

Subtitle Your Days

Many of the Date Paintings have subtitles. Some of these titles record personal anecdotes, such as “I played ‘Monopoly’ with Joseph, Christine and Hiroko this afternoon. We ate a lot of spaghetti” (January 1, 1968). Others record current events, some of them momentous, such as the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. Still other subtitles refer to the Date Paintings themselves; one reads, “I am afraid of my ‘Today’ paintings” (May 29, 1966). For this activity, challenge students to record a subtitle for each day of the week for two weeks. These subtitles can be personal, historical, or even arbitrary. What is it like to capture a day with a subtitle?

I like the idea of combining Siken’s suggestion of an image a day with Kawara’s date poems and Chang’s reading of the date as a door into somewhere else. A date as door, an image as door.

april 25/RUN

3.75 miles
2 trails + extra*
42 degrees

*extra = instead of ending the run at the 38th street steps, I kept going past the oak savanna and the overlook, down through the tunnel of trees, over the double bridge, before crossing over to edmund at 32nd and running back home

Felt warmer than 42 degrees with the sun and too many layers — black running tights, black shorts, long-sleeved bright yellow shirt, bright orange pull-over. The thing I noticed most today were the shadows. Heavy shadows everywhere. The shadows of trees, some stretching across the path, others leaning down, just above me. The shadow of a flying bird, a waiting lamppost.

10 Other Things I Remember from my Run

  1. the loud knocking of a woodpecker
  2. someone complaining to someone else on the phone. I first heard them up ahead of me near the old stone steps, then as I passed them on the trail, then about 10 minutes later from across the river road as I ran on the grass near edmund
  3. the river, blue with less foam, not quite as high. I was planning to admire its sparkle near the south entrance to the winchell trail but I was distracted by 2 walkers just ahead of me on the trail
  4. lower on the winchell trail the gorge below me was all river, no shore in sight
  5. a trickle of water at the 44th st sewer, gushing at 42nd
  6. kids playing at the school playground, yelling, laughing. one adult chanting something
  7. the leaning trees I noticed a few weeks ago are still leaning, almost blocking the trail. A few times, I had to duck to avoid small branches
  8. music playing (not loud enough to describe it as blasting) out of a car’s radio — some sort of rock music that I didn’t recognize
  9. one section of the split rail fence — where? I can’t remember — is broken and needs to be repaired
  10. most walkers I encountered were overdressed in winter coats, hats, gloves

Having finished my series of colorblind plates and feeling unmotivated to read the final sections of Ammons’ garbage, I’m project-less. Not a problem, except the lack of focus makes my mind wander everywhere. Here are just some of the things I thought about before my run this morning:

a new-ish bio

Once or twice a year, I take some time to submit poems to different literary journals. Not sure about the exact math, but I’d say I have about a 5% acceptance rate, which I don’t think is that unusual. I got used to rejection as an academic. Still stings though. Maybe that’s why I don’t submit that often. I think I also haven’t submitted a lot because I don’t care that much about being published, especially as a way to achieve fancy poetry status. But, I’d like to share my poems with a wider audience and if I only post them on my blog they don’t get read by a lot of people and I can no longer submit them to journals (most of the journals I’m encountering consider posting a poem on your personal blog as it being published already). I’d also like to apply for a grant and do an exhibit/installation of my vision test poems and I think having some of them published might help me to get that grant. So, with all that in mind, I’m currently sending poems out to different journals. As part of the submission, you write a cover letter and include a 50-150 word bio. A few days ago, I started playing around with my bio — I included a few in a post log entry on here. This morning I was still thinking about the bio. I was hoping my run would help me find another sentence for this unfinished bio:

Sara Lynne Puotinen lives in south Minneapolis near the Mississippi River Gorge where she enjoys conducting experiments in writing while moving, moving while writing, and doing both while losing her central vision. Sometimes she composes chants while running up hills, or uses her breathing patterns as she swims across a local lake to shape her lines. 

The run didn’t help. In fact, I forgot to even think about my bio. Oh well.

april 21, 2022

As part of my daily, “on this day” review, I was reading through past log entries early this morning. Last year’s was especially good (I almost wrote fire, but thought better of it — okay, I did actually write it, but then deleted it). So many things to put in my ongoing projects list!

First, this:

While I ran, I wanted to try and think about fungi as hidden, always in motion/doing (a verb, not a noun), and below. Had flashes of thought about what’s beneath us, and how I’m often looking down through my peripheral, even as I look ahead with my central vision. 

an experiment to try: While moving outside, give special attention to what’s beneath you, what you see, feel, hear at your feet. Make a list in your log entry.

variation: while trying don’t give attention to anything in particular. Just move. Then, in your log entry, try to remember 10 things you noticed below you.


I heard the creaking, squeaking branches and thought about old, rusty, long hidden/forgotten doors being opening — a trap door in the forest floor. I didn’t imagine past the open door or the idea that it led to the river basement (using basement here like ED in “I started Early — Took my Dog”). Still, I enjoyed thinking that I could access this door and something in my moving outside was opening a long shut door.

a question to consider: what doors await me in the gorge? where do they lead? how can I open them?

This morning, I was refreshing my memory of a Carl Sandburg poem I memorized a few years ago called “Doors.” If a door is open and you want it open, why shut it? If a door is shut and you want it shut, why open it?

Third: I love this poem — Mushrooms/ Sylvia Plath


An idea I have right now (25 april 2022, that is) for a poem involves playing off of these lines from Mary Oliver:

Listen, I don’t think we’re going to rise
in gauze and halos. 
Maybe as grass, and slowly. 
Maybe as the long leaved, beautiful grass

And this bit from Arthur Sze in an interview with David Naiman:

I began to think I love this idea that the mycelium is below the surface. It’s like the subconscious, then when the mushroom fruits pops up above ground, maybe that’s like this spontaneous outpouring of a poem or whatever.

Something like this?

Maybe like mushrooms, we rise
or not rise, flare
brief burst from below
then a return 
to swim in the dirt…

I (sara in 2023) would like to do something with this fragment, maybe tie it together with some of my thoughts about Ammons and garbage?


Mary Oliver’s mention of grass reminded me of a poem I like by Victoria Chang, which led me to a log entry from Jan 11, 2022:

Left Open / Victoria Chang

We can’t see beyond
the crest of the wooden gate.
We are carriers
of grass yet to be grown. We
aren’t made of cells, but of fields. 

I like this idea of being a carrier of grass yet to be grown. My first thought was of grass on graves — Whitman’s “uncut hair of graves” or Dickinson’s “The color of the grave is green”. Then I thought of Gwendolyn Brooks’ “To the Young Who Want to Die”:

Graves grow no green that you can use.
Remember, green’s your color. You are Spring.

Of course, all this grass talk also reminded me of this part of the cento I just created as one of my colorblind plate poems:

The world mostly g
one, I make it what I want: I 
empty my mind. I stuff it with grass. 
I’m green, I repeat. I grow in green, burst u
p in bonfires of green, whirl and hurl my green
over the rocks of this imaginary life.

This cento is made out of lines from poems I’ve gathered for this log:
The world mostly gone, I make it what I want (Psalm with Near Blindness/ Julia B. Levine)
I empty my mind. I stuff it with grass. I’m green, I repeat. (Becoming Moss/Ella Frears)
I grow in green (Paean to Place/ Lorine Niedecker)
burst up in bonfires of green (The Enkindled Spring/ D. H. Lawrence
whirl and hurl my green over the rocks (Oread)
this imaginary life (The Green Eye/ James Merrill)

addendum, 26 april 2023: Reading back through my entries about A. R. Ammons as I prepare to post my monthly challenge for April, I encountered these lines from Ammons’ pome “Grassy Sound.” How could I have already forgotten them?!

The wind came as grassy sound 
and between its
grassy teeth
spoke words said with grass

Happy Birthday Ted Kooser!

Discovered via twitter that today would have been Ted Kooser’s 84th birthday. What a wonderful poet! I’ve gathered 6 of his poems for this log:

  1. Grasshopper/ Ted Kooser
  2. The Early Bird/ Ted Kooser
  3. A Heron/ Ted Kooser
  4. In the Basement of the Goodwill Store/ Ted Kooser
  5. Carrie / Ted Kooser
  6. Turkey Vultures/ Ted Kooser

august 27/RUN

3.15 miles
turkey hollow loop
69 degrees / humidity: 86%
10:00 am

Windy and warm this late morning. As I started the run, I recited Christina Rosetti’s “Who Has Seen the Wind?”:

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has the seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Then Richard Siken’s “I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves/tremble but I am invisible” from “Lovesong of the Square Root of Negative One.”

It might be fun to have a few favorite lines for each type of weather so I could recite them as I ran. What could I do for heat and humidity?

Ran south on the river road trail. Crowded with too many pairs of bikers not moving over enough. Unlike yesterday, my attitude/mood, wasn’t the problem; it was the narrow trail and bikers’ unwillingness to bike single file in these narrow spots. I decided to cross over to Edmund and do the turkey hollow loop instead of staying on the trail. Before I crossed, I think I heard the rowers down below.

No turkeys in turkey hollow. Later, near Becketwood, I thought I saw a turkey, but it was only some dark plastic wrapped around a tree, protecting its trunk. I’ve thought these wraps were turkeys before, many times.

I don’t remember the river at all. Did I forgot to look? Was it still too veiled?

Disputed Tread/ Hazel Hall

Where she steps a whir,
Like dust about her feet,
Follows after her
Down the dustless street.

Something struggles there:
The forces that contend
Violently as to where
Her pathway is to end.

Issues, like great hands, grip
And wrestle for her tread;
One would strive to trip,
And one would go ahead.

Conflicting strengths in her 
Grapple to guide her feet,
Raising an unclean whir,
Like dust, upon the street.

Here’s the About This Poem description:

“Disputed Tread” first appeared in Walkers (Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1922). The poem, composed of rhyming quatrains in a loose trimeter, likens the blur, or “whir,” of the movement of one’s feet to the cloud of dust it would otherwise rouse on a dusty road. Regarding the poem, poet Margery Swett Mansfield remarks, in her review of Hall’s Walkers published in Poetry vol. 22, no. 5 (August 1923), titled “Beyond Sight and Hearing,” that “[s]urely no one has ever wrung more meaning from a footfall! Feet tell her the truth even when her mind would prefer the more comforting conclusions of philosophy.”

Feet tell her the truth even when her mind would prefer the more comforting conclusions of philosophy. I like this idea of the truth of our striking feet.

Before I ran this morning, I found this interview with Victoria Chang: The Arc Moves a Little Upwards: A Conversation with Victoria Chang Curated by Lisa Olstein. Here are a few bits I’d like to remember:

I use many different types of syllabics such as tankas, katautas, chokas.

Later, I’ll look these up. I’m always looking for new forms!

LO: “Form sets the thought free,” says Anne Carson, and I believe her. How did form and thought co-evolve in the unfolding of this work?

VC: I love this quote. I have heard similar things said in different ways. I myself sometimes say form is like putting the guard rails up while bowling–what freedom that gives to the process of bowling (one feels more free while releasing the ball) and then there’s a better chance of getting a strike. But of course, Anne Carson is more elegant than I am with her quote. 

For The Trees Witness Everything book, form was the main constraint (and freedom) of the poems. I had to rewrite lines, phrases, in some cases, entire poems because the syllables didn’t work. The constraints truly freed up my mind to go wherever the poem needed/wanted to go.

jan 14/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turnaround
16 degrees / feels like 4
100% snow-covered, at least an inch of loose snow

Snowing all day today. Usually, I wait until it stops and the trails have been plowed before I go out for a run, but not today. Decided to dig out my oldest yak trak and run through the snow. Loved it! A few parts weren’t fun: the wind blowing sharp shards of snow on my face, into my eyes, how slick and soft and difficult it was to run through. The rest of it was great. Quiet, calm, dreamy.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the regular, Santa Claus, bundled up in a bright orange jacket, with black running tights
  2. a fat tire, their light cutting through the grayish white
  3. almost everything looked soft, blanketed in snow; many things felt hard, sharp pellets of icy snow stinging my face
  4. a car disappearing into the falling snow, near the trestle
  5. a runner in glowing yellow
  6. geese overhead, honking
  7. impatient chickadees, their fee bee calls overlapping
  8. the river: a lot of white, with streaks of dark, open water
  9. 4 people emerging from the forest below, crossing the river road
  10. running on the road, at the end, mesmerized by the endless, blank white beneath me, feeling like I was running in place, or running through nothing, or not moving, just suspended in white

Time for another Chang/Merwin combo. I love this chance to reflect on Victoria Chang’s short poems, and be introduced to more of W.S. Merwin’s work. Today’s pairing starts with Chang’s “Daylight.” I couldn’t find a poem by Merwin with that exact title, so I settled for “The Wings of Daylight.” Is it the poem Chang is referencing? Not sure.

Daylight/ Victoria Chang

One by one, days died,
even they weren’t protected.
They have no symptoms
but keep dying. They want to
fix melancholy,
to keep coming back to no
answers, to take the
depositions of orchards.

The Wings of Daylight/ W. S. Merwin

Brightness appears showing us everything
it reveals the splendors it calls everything
but shows it to each of us alone
and only once and only to look at
not to touch or hold in our shadows
what we see is never what we touch
what we take turns out to be something else
what we see that one time departs untouched
while other shadows gather around us
the world’s shadows mingle with our own
we had forgotten them but they know us
they remember us as we always were
they were at home here before the first came
everything will leave us except the shadows
but the shadows carry the whole story
at first daybreak they open their long wings