when was the last time you were in wonderment?

I think there’s almost like a responsibility in some ways when the world and the news is so disgusting and so heartbreaking. I think that’s all the more reason to turn to—I ask my students, when is the last time you were in wonderment of something, when was the last time you had awe over something….I think it’s a practice. I think we forget how to be in wonderment. And I think it’s a great, I don’t know, responsibility. But also, it’s contagious. When you hear someone say, oh my gosh, I love how the silver on a silver oak is winking at me, that kind of thing, it’s hard to not notice something yourself. And then someone else will notice something and someone else will notice something (Aimee Nezhukumatathil).

Whitman and our Warming World / Aimee Nezhukumatathil

not what you know but what you wonder

“While poetry sometimes to teachers is a matter of text and something to be studied, for me poetry is a way of living in the world. I think that I don’t produce texts, and I don’t do it to be studied, though I do recognize the value of those things. But for me poetry is a way of trying to express something that is very difficult to express, and it’s a way of trying to come to peace with the world. The mistake teachers sometimes make is that they think art and poetry—they think that’s about answers. And it’s not about that, it’s about questions. So you come to poetry not out of what you know but out of what you wonder. And everyone wonders something differently and at different times. It is a mistake in poetry—it is not a mistake to try to figure out the ways that it’s crafted, but its crafting is not what it is.” —Lucille Clifton

wonder as a form of bewilderment/ Kaveh Akbar

I was actually talking with my graduate workshop yesterday about how an orientation towards wonder, as a poet, is absolutely necessary. I really do sincerely feel that bewilderment is at the core of every great poem, and in order to be bewildered, you have to be able to wonder. You absolutely have to be permeable to wonder. Maintaining an orientation towards wonder in a time where the government is conspiring against it, in a time where black people are being murdered at the hands of the state, in a time when the Earth is very much trying to warn us about what we’re doing to it, maintaining an orientation towards wonder becomes really difficult. It’s the work that I have to do every day, the work of trying to find sources of wonder, even in our sadness and loneliness, or even in our anger. There are ways to be both angry and full of wonder at the same time. I think Solmaz Sharif’s Look is a great example of a book both bewildered and angry. I think that orientation towards wonder is really vital to our fellowship of writers, and I also think it’s a lot of work. It’s not passive, especially not now. Source

always let the wonder win (Aimee Nezhukumatathil)

It’s there. A grief is there. Sadness and rage is always there. And then the wonder wins. I make sure the wonder wins. And definitely there are harder days than others, but that’s where the practice is. I try with all my might to make the wonder win by the end of the day. 

Live with Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Ross Gay

I’m on a wonder/ Lynda Barry

Ada Limón on Wonder

‘I want to know how we live. How do we live?’. And I mean that in a curious way, but I also mean it in a wondrous way. Because sometimes I think — wow, we do this! And other times I think, how do we do this. It is out of sheer amazement that the question comes out of me — because it is really remarkable to be alive. But the ebbs and flows are just so intense. And I think acknowledging how hard it is, is actually part of the wonderment. You know that’s part of the awe. And I don’t think I knew that until I had experienced my own realization about mortality.

that’s what poetry is. It doesn’t just point out the world. It makes it strange to us again. So that we can remember wonder. 

What is Enough for a Poem?
Joy and Delight are not the same as Happiness
Whimsy as delight and joy on a smaller scale (Paige Lewis Vs. Tiny Things)

Audre Lorde and the erotic

from ch 4 of my dissertation

We need to tap into “the yes within ourselves” and cultivate the deep capacity for joy which can imbue all of our activities with a creative and inspiring energy and can enable us to connect and share in the feeling of joy with others (Lorde 1984, 56-57).

O, to be so unabashed in my joy!

Heard a kid jubilantly call out, “I just saw a fish! A Northern Pike! Right there! Right there!” Such wonderful enthusiasm. O, to be so unabashed in my joy! A goal for this year. I’m tired of cynicism and swallowing the quirky joy I have for so many small and random things like garden gnomes and undulating waves and bright, glowing green running shoes!

space and tools for joy

Here’s some wisdom from @chenchenwrites that I found on twitter the other day:

as i’m always telling my students—why start from scratch? look at some paintings. look at photography. take a long walk. smell some basil. flip through an old notebook. tweak a favorite song lyric. follow what you already love into its forest. deepen that love. step into it more

and @hechizante777’s reply:

I worry that so many of my students (potentially pressured into nursing or other healthcare majors) simply haven’t had opportunities to figure out what they love… how to make space for that in an era of violence and scarcity?

Making space for figuring out what we love and then loving it in an era of violence and scarcity. So difficult. This discussion reminds me of Teju Cole and his interview with David Naimon for Between the Covers, especially this part:

This frenzied capitalism that we live in—what I’ve been calling market totalitarianism—produces loneliness, existential isolation that deprives people of the tools with which to navigate their place in the universe. This might be genuinely new in the history of the world, cultures have always provided people with those tools, and now we’re all just screaming into the void. Because we’ve been robbed of many, many of the tools that help anchor human experience in the world. I remember what Sun Ra said, he said “Everything comes from outer space.” Everything, it’s all meteors, it’s all from the sun. “The only thing Earth produces is the dead bodies of humans,” he said. I feel in a very vital way that the only thing market totalitarianism really produces is human alienation, depriving us of the tools with which enfold ourselves in the fabric of time. So when I encounter a quintet by Brahms, or traditional Papuan flute music, these are things that give me a chance to re-enfold myself in those sustaining human networks; to the mystery of being alive.

Teju Cole interview

And I’m also thinking of Haniq Abdurraqib’s “On Joy” (which I found very early this morning via twitter):

I don’t know what to do with all of the world’s burning anymore. Sometimes we start the fire directly, other times we’re unwitting accomplices to it, and then there are times when the smoke rises and dances above our own doorsteps, and we’re just too tired to keep the flames under control. I turn on the TV and people of color are still dying. I read the news and people in Trans communities remain dismissed, remain punchlines until they are dead, and people are still laughing at the bad joke. I talk to the women in my life and hear how they’re treated as a different class of person entirely. I don’t have the luxury to not dismantle the systems that allow for those things, and more. I am impacted by it, in some ways, I’m complicit in it, and it’s hard to sit idle while knowing those things. While being afforded a platform, artistic and otherwise.

When we talk about “the work”, as writers, so many of us mean the actual work of writing. The work on the page, of course. After a year of wrestling with the fragility of my own life, and the life of my closest human love, I realized that “the work” is also the work of living. It is the work of loving others when we can, taking care of ourselves when we can, and knowing not to let the former overwhelm us into forgetting the latter. Those two different types of work are two rivers flowing into the same body of water, for me. I don’t know how to write healthy and productive poems if I’m only doing one side of the work.

The only promise here is that I will wake up tomorrow and be as exhausted by the world as I was today. Sure, I may find a brief reprieve in a panda video (or, in the case of the particular tomorrow at the time of this writing, the new Terrance Hayes book!), but I will still find myself going outside to throw water on whatever flames I can, my arms weakening. I know that they will be there, every day. But even through all of it, something happened at around the end of last year. I started writing poems about being married. About my father, still healthy and living. About the friends I love and miss dearly. About my dog. I realized this urgency to archive the things that are not promised. I need the joy in my life to live outside of my body. I need to see it, to touch it. I need that outside of my body even more than I need the rage, confusion, and sadness on the outside. I know the sadness will always replenish itself. There is no certainty in almost anything else. I don’t know how long I’ll get to hear my wife sing along to pop songs in the car during road trips. I don’t know how much longer I’ll get to talk to my father with him remembering who I am. I don’t know when my dog will be too old to rush towards me with a wagging tail whenever I come back from an especially long trip. I need those things to live in other places. I need to have them outside of me so that I can run into them on the days where I will need to. Surely, each small joy has an expiration date. I have touched the edges of them. I don’t know how to fight against this reality except for to write into these moments with urgency. With fearlessness and hunger.


Ross Gay and the difference between delight and joy

Delight is like the butterflies flying around and landing on the thing that is joy. This American Life Episode: The Show of Delights

Ross Gay on Joy and the Wilderness Within

The body, the life, might carry a wilderness, an unexplored territory, and that yours and mine might somewhere, somehow meet. Might even join. 

And what if the wilderness–perhaps the densest wild in there–thickets, swamps, bogs, uncrossable ravines and rivers–is our sorrow?

Is sorrow the true wild?
And if it is–and if we join them–your will with mine–what’s that?

What if we joined our sorrows, I’m saying.
I’m saying: What if that is joy?

Ross Gay/ Books of Delights
the daily moment of delight

Earlier today, walking with the dog, we encountered 3 BIG turkeys chilling out in the bottom of a neighbor’s yard (or would you call it a ravine? It dips down way below the road–maybe it was a sink hole?). Delia the dog didn’t bark or even take much notice of this rafter of birds (rafter or flock is what a group of wild turkeys is called). But I did. Watching them, mostly in delight, with a dash of trepidation. Then I thought: this is it–the thing that I want to remember about today. Seeing three random turkeys in someone’s yard.

daily delight (oct 21)

I could write about the many leaves that had fallen in the wind and rain and were littering the path or how it felt like it was still raining with all the water dropping from the trees or the strange quality of the light–dark at first, a light slowly spreading, then sunshine–or seeing the forest floor a few times or turning around at the trestle and racing the cars crawling their way through the four way stop or actually enjoying running into the stiff wind, a big grin on my face or stopping, at the end, to study the ravine and being able to clearly see the wrought iron fence. I could, but all I really want to mention are the two turkeys I saw crossing Edmond Boulevard as I walked home through my neighborhood. The one in front was running fast, bobbing its head, while the second, smaller one tried to keep up. Did you know that turkeys could run fast? I didn’t. As I watched them run away I thought that seeing them run so quickly, with their graceful legs and awkward heads, was all I needed today.

Daily Delights (sept 5)
  • A blue rooster on a roof
  • A black cat sitting still on a lawn
  • A hipster Dad with his tight jeans cuffed
  • The write a gnome poem on the poetree
some definitions of delight

of light, without light

pleasure, en/joy, a treat, satisfaction, glee, triumph, jubilate, to please, exuberant, dazzle, charm, relish, blind, enrapture, blur, astonish, wonderment


Soft filter (barbara walter’s filter)
gentle/not harsh
fuzzy, faded
without judgment
faulty knowledge


feeling, not knowing

in the river of earthly delight
Poppies/ Mary Oliver

The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn’t a place
in this world that doesn’t

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curved blade
from hooking forward—
of course
loss is the great lesson.

But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it’s done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight—

and what are you going to do—
what can you do
about it—
deep, blue night?

thoughts while listening to a podcast with Ross Gay

Listening to an interview with Ross Gay on the Tin house podcast, Between the Covers, and thinking about Gay’s complex understanding of joy. Joy is not a tradable good, something we can buy. It is not free of sorrow or the transcendence of pain, the forgetting of death. It is not satisfaction or contentment or happiness.

Joy is fundamentally informed by the fact that we will all die (and too soon), and that we know we will die. Joy is a kind of feeling that emerges when we are trying to hold each other’s sorrow. Trying to be with each other in the midst/in face of our pain and imminent death.

Ross Gay

The interviewer, David Naimon, suggests of Gay’s work on joy:

a facile understanding of joy is that it is outside of the body, buoyant, transcendent. But you’re tethering joy to the body, to the precarity of the body. And the collectivity of sharing of that precarity is a prerequisite for joy.

Gay responds:

A childish notion of joy is the feeling of being a really free, discrete individual who is not beholden [to anyone or anything], a kind of happiness, a buoyancy, where you lift above everything, as opposed to what we know biologically is not the case. My practice is toward entanglement, toward a decomposition of the self.

Being connected to a body/bodies is not a burden, but the point, the goal of my work. I want to understand and notice the connections–becoming better acquainted with my/the body, being beside/among/in the midst of a wide range of multi-specied others (humans, plants, animals, dirt, limestone, shale, river, etc). Joy is not to escape this, but to experience it, to get to know it.

Joy and the Runner’s High

In the first year of my running while writing and writing while running experiments on RUN!, I wondered about the runner’s high–what is it? what words best describe it? how do I/others experience it? What causes it? Early on in my wonderings, inspired by Jamie Quatro and Thomas Gardner, I decided that the endorphin rush, that bubbling over buzzing feeling of ELATION! and JOY! and HAPPINESS! was only the superficial/top layer of a deeper sense of syncing up with the world. [See also, this early draft of the poem, I See Wonder in the Chemicals]

Running as Prayer/ Jamie Quatro

In my own case, the allure of distance running involves sinking through the first two layers and emerging into a third, a state of prayerlike consciousness. Past the feel-good vibes, past the delusions, my attention moves outward: I’m intensely aware of the cadence of a bird’s song, cherry blossoms weighted-down after a rain. Things light up and I experience an interior stillness that somehow syncs me more profoundly with the exterior world. It’s a paradox: only when I’m fully present in my body do I begin to experience the absence of myself (Quatro). 

The Joy of Running / Sara Lynne Puotinen

The joy of running is not
reckless abandon
an all out sprint,
arms flailing,
feet fleeing
from the imaginary monsters on the playground.
And it’s not focused aggression
lungs burning
muscles aching
mind calculating better splits and faster races.
The joy of running is
the confident grace
of a body that knows its value
and celebrates movement’s magic
gliding easily through the world.
One foot striking the ground and then the other
feeling the grit on the path
but not the mechanics of the motion.

the magic of movement/ may 11, 2017

Then, I realized something: we can try to understand how to walk. We can break it down and reduce it to the minute moments and movements and manipulations of muscles and ligaments and joints. But we can’t ever fully understand it and take away how magical it is. Walking is magical. The body is magical. All the complicated elements that are invisible but work together for us to walk. Magical. Even the highly scientific terms used to describe it, like the muscles in the foot, are magical–mysterious and fantastical in their almost inscrutability:

tibalis posterior and anterior muscles
flexor hallucis posterior
flexor digitorum longus
extensor digitorum longus
hallucis longus

Why use the word “magical”? I’m thinking about mystery and wonder and ineffability. I’m also thinking about an On Being interview I heard with Marie Howe and her discussion of poetry as counter-spell. And I’m thinking about Harry Potter. I’ve been watching the entire series with my family for the past few weeks.

joy is/isn’t a dreamlike state

Finishing up the run this morning, cresting the ridge above the pond into a sudden blinding sun reflecting off the ice. As if the light were alive, preparing to speak. And then turning ordinary again as I came down the ridge and the angle changed and the light pulled back into itself. My right calf is still a little stiff from where I strained it last week doing mile repeats in the cold. Just enough to not let me out of my body. When Emily Dickinson writes about Jacob, she never mentions his limp, even though that awareness of limits is everywhere in her work. Instead, she writes about his bewilderment–cunning Jacob, refusing to let go until he had received a blessing and then suddenly realizing, as “light swung…silver fleeces” across the “Hills beyond,” that he had been wrestling all night with God. He had seen God’s face and lived. The limp is what we take away. It means there must be a way back. It almost goes without saying (3).

JANUARY 6, 2012, Poverty Creek Journal/ Thomas Gardner

Even as we try to transcend our bodies while running, we are constantly reminded of our limits. We are bodies. We need that reminder to ground us and to keep us from getting too lost in the dreamlike state that running creates. Gardner discusses the dreamlike state in several other entries. 

ideas about love

see running log entries from august 2021 and august: how to love like the lake loves

  • letting go (like leaves falling off the trees in fall) = faith = grace = god (lucille clifton)
  • dictionary definitions: a feeling of strong personal attachment due to affection or kinship ties; strong liking for; tender and passionate; no points in tennis game
  • trite — birds, bees, June, moon, roses, Cupid makes you stupid (Blossom Dearie)
  • finding the beauty in spite of the odds, loving the world even though “the world is at least half terrible” (Maggie Smith)
  • the care/repair/persistent work our bodies do for us every day so we can function/survive (aug 4)
  • the heart as symbol (of love) and organ (aug 5)
  • not equal: “If equal affection cannot be,/ Let the more loving one be me” (Auden, aug 6)
  • small kindnesses: pulling in your legs in a crowded aisle, saying “bless you,” helping someone pick up spilled lemons, saying “thank you” (aug 7)
  • sometimes similar, but not the same as joy, pleasure, or surprise (aug 9)
  • love of/belief in self, love that doesn’t need light (aug 16)
  • nourishment, womb, not wanting not restless (aug 18)
  • love as connection, as opposed to mercy as compassion (Carl Phillips, aug 23)
  • as grief — a burden and a friend (aug 25)
  • being in the midst of others, connected (aug 26)
  • as distinguished from liking — we like objects, we love living things, to like is fleeting to love lasts (Dorothy Wordsworth, aug 26)
  • an offering to others, to yourself, a way to find beauty in a mostly ugly world, to find a reason in an unreasonable world (aug 31)
Meditations in an Emergency/ Cameron Awkward-Rich

I wake up & it breaks my heart. I draw the blinds &
the thrill of rain breaks my heart. I go outside. I
ride the train, walk among the buildings, men in
Monday suits. The flight of doves, the city of tents
beneath the underpass, the huddled mass, old
women hawking roses, & children all of them,
break my heart. There’s a dream I have in which I
love the world. I run from end to end like fingers
through her hair. There are no borders, only wind.
Like you, I was born. Like you, I was raised in the
institution of dreaming. Hand on my heart. Hand
on my stupid heart.

[I Won’t Be Able to Write From the Grave]/ Fanny Howe

I won’t be able to write from the grave
so let me tell you what I love:
oil, vinegar, salt, lettuce, brown bread, butter,
cheese and wine, a windy day, a fireplace,
the children nearby, poems and songs,
a friend sleeping in my bed—
and the short northern nights.