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in plain air 177
Running at Hendry's
For head with foot hath private amitie
And both with moons and tides.
-- herbert
I've always loved the old sonnet sequences more than any of the sonnets
in them, magnifi cent or lovely as these may be. The sequences take up as
no single poem can the unpredictable mix of experiences and themes with
the prevailing passion, all going on during a longish stretch of time. Then
there are the scraps of narrative that come out incidentally, the shifts
(alas) in the passion itself, the sense that each poem is being done at a sit-
ting with the time passing, that an idea that doesn't come through satis-
factorily here may turn up later (only now with a fresh secondary theme
jostling it which later becomes itself a main theme), the untidy couplings
of metaphysics and peevishness, jealousy or other unworthy emotions,
this or that unrelated preoccupation obtruding along the way, the speaker
himself changing willy-nilly, the bits of news, glooms, dull stretches, ela-
tions -- and the old types, the anniversary sonnet, the insomniac sonnet,
the sonnet about the sonnet.
When I found myself taking up running at the height of the craze, a
byproduct was that phrases kept coming to mind, pieces of poems, hav-
ing to do not only with running but also with the not especially beautiful
or otherwise remarkable beach where I ran. I had come to love the place
for its shapes, tones, smells and the rest, not least the people that showed
up there. All this, with its daily, hourly changeableness, I was each day
looking forward obsessively to visiting. So here was a passion, and it oc-
curred to me that I could cross the new craze with an old craze and do a
sonnet sequence, drawing on whatever came in handy in the older craze,
for treatment of what I was doing down at Hendry's nearly every day, over
the weeks, the months, the unspectacular seasons.