Wednesday, July 11, 2018

After Waking, Running

     Today's posting is a villanelle about running -- and it is was written as a response to Theodore Roethke's villanelle, "The Waking" -- posted a few days ago on July 3.  Moving quickly has been a part of my mental life (as I dart from rhymes to equations, looking for connections) and my physical life (as I try to burn enough energy that I may sit thoughtfully for a while).  Runners are among those I admire; my heroes include  Flo-Jo -- Florence Delores Griffith-Joyner (1959-98), whose 1988 records still stand, making her "the fastest woman in the world" -- and Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister (1929-2018) -- whom I remember from a lunchtime news broadcast in 1954 when I was a girl on a farm in Pennsylvania and he ran the first sub-4 minute mile in Oxford, England.
     A villanelle has a rather complex structure -- stated somewhat simply, it is a nineteen-line poem with two rhymes in its five stanzas and two lines that each are repeated (precisely or approximately) four times.  These repetitions can lead to an interesting back-and-forth in the development of images and ideas. Although not about mathematics, this villanelle may, it seems to me, say a bit about mathematicians.

          Response (by JoAnne Growney) to “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke 

       My sleep is brief.  I rise to run again,
       to flee the doubts that catch me when I'm still.
       I live by going faster than I can.

       I feel by doing.  What's to understand?
       I eat and drink and never have my fill.
       My sleep is brief.  I rise to run again.

       I'm useful and adored.  Supporters throw grand
       parties in my honor, courting my good will.
       I live by stepping higher than I can.

       Restless at night, I reach and find a hand
       to hold and squeeze, to drop with guilt —
       after brief bothered sleep, I rise and run again.

       I lack companions.  Friendship’s madly bland,
       and no one keeps my pace in search of thrill.
       I live by going faster than I can.

       Motion holds me sane and so I run,
       but the pace that keeps me lucid also kills.
       My sleep is brief.  I rise to run again.
       I live by going faster than I can.

This previous posting (from 2014) also mentions Roger Bannister and his record-breaking mile.

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