Thursday, February 19, 2009


Not up there, but around you, me.

"I take SPACE to be the central fact to man born in America"
--Charles Olson Call Me Ishmael

No surprise I find myself thinking about space given my studies of Charles Olson's poetry and essays of late. Better still, I discovered a bit of a missing link for myself between early 20th century pedagogue and guru of progressive education, John Dewey, and Olson's geographic language art borne of the individual's movement through space.

Says Dewey "The unity of all the sciences is found in geography. The significance of geography is that it presents the earth as the enduring home of the occupations of man. The world without its relationship to human activity is less than a world." - from "The School and the Society".

Also in my mind is Michele de Certeau's The Practice of Everyday Life particularly the essay "Walking in the city". What I think of, more so than the act of an individual moving through urban space becoming textual--the individual inscribed up on the landscape and the landscape shaping the individual--is the way I have come to relate to space through life on a bicycle. Though I suppose it's the same thing.

In many ways I feel like I didn't really know the area in which I live until I started riding bikes seriously. Things are both much nearer and much farther than I had imagined them to be, more accessible and less, too. The immediacy of the Self to art, to politics, to society at large, as experience by the pedestrian is what de Certeau is getting at. From the perspective of the cyclist, though, it is different yet again in that the physiological transformation that equates to greater fitness allows spatial relationships between geographic points to become diminished. So my world is larger as a competitive cyclist in that I can ride my bike from Albany, NY to visit my brother in Northampton, MA, for instance--a ride of roughly 85 miles--and at the same time it is smaller. Smaller in the sense that an average day's training ride has the potential to bridge a social and emotional distance, and larger because what this amounts to is a choice. And choice amounts to social mobility.

What I feel I am moving closer to, as I move closer towards completing my current degree, and as I commit myself to an ever-greater training load on the bike, is some sense of cogency of self. How do I find myself, musically, athletically, intellectually, mapped throughout the space I inhabit? And how can I move toward living some harmonious balance of these elements of self as a practice?

I have been thinking a lot about the necessity of public education as a means toward social mobility and fluidity of social roles, thanks to Dewey. And thinking, of course of space from Olson.

I sit and wonder what I want to be when I grow up, when it will make itself apparent to me, and there is some self-satisfaction in realizing a personal and developmental, as well as a sort of proto-professional connection between my bike racing and my love of/belief in education via literature.

An American

is a complex of occasions,

themselves a geometry

of a spatial nature.

I have this sense,

that I am one

with my skin

Plus this-plus this:

that forever the geography

which leans in

on me I compell

backwards I compell Gloucester

to yield, to



is this

--Charles Olson, from Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [Withheld]
(forgive the formatting, Blogger doesn't like the tab key)

For the cyclocross folk among you, the significance of Gloucester will not be lost. Olson's life's work was grounded in the geography of Gloucester, this poem from the perspective of Stage Fort park, where we race each October.

And it's a rest week. After 20 hours and 500+k on the road last week my body needs a little bit of rest. So this week I am mostly at home with my daughter who is on school vacation. The weather is shiite, I ride the trainer. I think the trainer is something of an antithesis to all of this mapping of self through space. It's like an intellectual and artistic vacuum.



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