Friday, May 6, 2011

The Enviable Persistence of Poet Allison Joseph

Poet Allison Joseph at SIUE, 2010
Beyond the books. Beyond the literary achievements. Beyond the incredible sequence of sonnets. Beyond all the other poems. Beyond the fact that she's most likely the only black woman director of an MFA Program who is also the editor of a literary magazine. Beyond all of that, you could still work hard and find the strength to not envy Allison Joseph.

But eventually, you'll make the mistake I made of stumbling onto her twitter page. You'll go in search of her poems or poetic statements, but what you'll find there is a runners log, the likes of which has never been seen or even created in African American literary history.

Agree to "follow" Allison on twitter, and you'll receive daily updates like these:

Ran 5.02 miles in 47 mins and felt good. i was cruising along, getting my five done, grooving to Bargrooves--...

Ran 3.1 miles in 27 mins and felt good. Saw the window of opportunity to be outside and took it!

Ran 4 miles in 36 mins and felt good. Lovely trail. I could smell pines!

Ran 10 miles in 1 hour and 40 mins and felt great. just relaxed and let the miles accumulate.

All these years, we thought that it was Allison's prolific writing and publishing career that we were supposed to envy or admire. But instead, it's the persistence.

What if--and I'm still developing this idea--it's the drive that moves a poet to complete marathons and more importantly to run a few miles every day that really helps us understand the nature of her work as a poet? What if all her those poems she wrote and now all these miles she's running are proxies or manifestations of some "keep going" spirit?

Maybe it's the persistence then that we should keep in mind as we consider the body of work produced by someone who is a poet or runner or, as in the case with Allison Joseph, the body of work produced by someone who is a poet and runner.

On those occasions when I'm not envious of Allison's long-distance publishing record or her prolific runners log, I remind myself why her work is inspiring. Among other reasons, I read her books in hopes that her words might strengthen my own writing hand, and I follow her on twitter hoping that her updates will inspire me to persist in my efforts toward physical fitness.

So really, my envy of Allison is only playful. I, more than anyone, am inspired by and invested in her continued successes.

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