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Kay Ryan Runs

I’ve been thinking a bit about Kay Ryan recently–she’s just ending her tenure as our country’s Poet Laureate for the past two years–so I’m wondering if the freedom from such a big job will give her space to write more poetry.   I’m guessing she’ll be fairly prolific, whereas I’ve been free of my corporate trappings for several months now and I am still. not. prolific.  At writing poetry, that is.  If we’re talking running, then game on, sister Kay.  I’ve got you beat in that department. 

Our esteemed Poet Laureate was featured a few months back in Runner’s World–here’s the article: I’m a Runner: Kay Ryan from RunnersWorld.com. I liked what she said about the parallels between running and writing:

Both require patience and endurance and humility. Both can be hard and unpleasant at times. But of the two, writing is much harder. When you go out for a run, you never fail, but you often fail when you set out to write a poem, even if you try your hardest.

 Anyway, thinking about our exiting Poet Laureate (and runner) made me remember a book I read nearly 20 years ago that involved another Poet Laureate–William Meredith.  Only unlike Kay, William wasn’t a runner.  Rather it was Richard Harteis, his partner/paramour/friend that wrote Marathon, a wonderful memoir of sorts centered around the months he trained for the New York Marathon while caring for his ill partner.

Twenty years after reading that book I’m now training for a marathon of my own.  And I can tell you that if Kay Ryan is right (and she is) that running is easier than writing poetry, then writing poetry is not for the faint of heart.  I regularly beg for mercy on long runs exceeding 15 miles and need more than patience to pull me through.  What I need, I think, is the courage of someone like Richard Harteis to get me to the finish line.   He intersects training tales with the more pressing challenge of helping his partner rehabilitate following a serious stroke.  It’d do me a lot of good to reread Harteis’s book just to put my running challenge in perspective.  After all, putting one foot in front of the other for 26.2 miles is small potatoes compared to caring for a once vital lover’s deteriorating health.  And don’t even get me started on writing even a line of poetry now. I’d sooner run 3 hours without a break.  In fact, I think I will.

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Categories: On Running
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