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"That rush in between when it all comes undone. Knowing its edge like your own pulse and breathing. As I knew them this morning, racing a 10K in late-spring heat, the taste of panic in the last two miles as everything slipped away, losing time and barely finishing. A tingling in my limbs as if I were driving on ice, the road beneath me suddenly gone, the feeling of that in "That rush in between when it all comes undone. Knowing its edge like your own pulse and breathing. As I knew them this morning, racing a 10K in late-spring heat, the taste of panic in the last two miles as everything slipped away, losing time and barely finishing. A tingling in my limbs as if I were driving on ice, the road beneath me suddenly gone, the feeling of that in my hands. Deeper than words, being lost for a moment and then being done. Left with a pounding, stiff-legged stagger." Spiritual improvisations, radiant acts of attention: echoing Thoreau's Walden, the meditations of Guy Davenport, and Kenny Moore's groundbreaking articles for Sports Illustrated, Thomas Gardner strides through inner and outer landscapes. Freed by disciplined effort, the runner's mind here roams and mourns and remembers.


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"That rush in between when it all comes undone. Knowing its edge like your own pulse and breathing. As I knew them this morning, racing a 10K in late-spring heat, the taste of panic in the last two miles as everything slipped away, losing time and barely finishing. A tingling in my limbs as if I were driving on ice, the road beneath me suddenly gone, the feeling of that in "That rush in between when it all comes undone. Knowing its edge like your own pulse and breathing. As I knew them this morning, racing a 10K in late-spring heat, the taste of panic in the last two miles as everything slipped away, losing time and barely finishing. A tingling in my limbs as if I were driving on ice, the road beneath me suddenly gone, the feeling of that in my hands. Deeper than words, being lost for a moment and then being done. Left with a pounding, stiff-legged stagger." Spiritual improvisations, radiant acts of attention: echoing Thoreau's Walden, the meditations of Guy Davenport, and Kenny Moore's groundbreaking articles for Sports Illustrated, Thomas Gardner strides through inner and outer landscapes. Freed by disciplined effort, the runner's mind here roams and mourns and remembers.

30 review for Poverty Creek Journal

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul Duffau

    Books about running rarely take on a literary cast, but Poverty Creek Journal does by stepping past the memoir, the how-to, and fiction to find room to introspect along the run. Set forth in short vignettes, Thomas Gardner explores the nature of both his environment and his running through a perceptive lens. Most of the runs hark back to the trails around Blacksburg, Virginia, with excursions to the Outer Banks. The inner journey travels greater distances, from the joy of the run, the death of a Books about running rarely take on a literary cast, but Poverty Creek Journal does by stepping past the memoir, the how-to, and fiction to find room to introspect along the run. Set forth in short vignettes, Thomas Gardner explores the nature of both his environment and his running through a perceptive lens. Most of the runs hark back to the trails around Blacksburg, Virginia, with excursions to the Outer Banks. The inner journey travels greater distances, from the joy of the run, the death of a brother, the joy of a daughter taking flight. At each stop, we get a taste of the outer, “Six miles, 41 degrees,” and the inner, “Something was waiting for me down there. All spring, I heard is calling me. Loafe with me on the grass . . . loose the stop from your throat.” The last part is an allusion to Whitman’s Song of Myself. Gardner, a Professor of Literature at Virginia Tech, sprinkles his work liberally with the wisdom of the poet brought to the act of running. The mix is intriguing and provocative. Whitman gets a share of attention, and Dickinson, and Thoreau, Frost, Melville. Gardner uses the daily run to challenge you to look below the surface as he does when running with Lasse Viren. He describes the scene, with Viren “even walking he was almost dancing . . . composing the trail.” Similar imagery threads through the pages, illuminating the passive and active, the nature of the ice on the pond or the sight of his daughter running away from him at the end of a run. Picture please, George Sheehan finishing a run and finding Henry Thoreau waiting. The two would sit and converse, compare points, probably long into night. If one or the other were to write a volume of that conversation, it would resemble Poverty Creek Journal. The words written within its pages are less about the run itself than the essence of running. For Thomas Gardner, the path to the truth of the run lay outside the books on mechanics and pacing, or the truths in John Parker’s (or my) fiction, hidden in plain view if one knew where to look—and dared to.

  2. 5 out of 5

    L.A. Starks

    This slim volume of year-2012 journal entries by a Virginia Tech English professor is poetic and dramatic, with reference to tragic events both large and small. Readers should be aware that this book focuses on running. So it is much more highly recommended for runners or athletes than those without athletic interest. Runners in particular will understand the language of "hill repeats" "tempo runs," etc. This slim volume of year-2012 journal entries by a Virginia Tech English professor is poetic and dramatic, with reference to tragic events both large and small. Readers should be aware that this book focuses on running. So it is much more highly recommended for runners or athletes than those without athletic interest. Runners in particular will understand the language of "hill repeats" "tempo runs," etc.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mark Johnson

    A beautiful meditation on running, nature and grief.

  4. 4 out of 5

    jiji

    Very short volume -- can easily be read in one sitting. I'll probably reread it this weekend. The "journal" consists of 52 entries, all of them not quite essay, not quite poem. An added bonus: The author is an English professor at Virignia Tech in my home state. I'm going to guess this is a book only a liberal arts college English major could love, and it probably doesn't have wide appeal. But if you enjoy quiet, considered reflections on life, nature, and running, you may like this. Very short volume -- can easily be read in one sitting. I'll probably reread it this weekend. The "journal" consists of 52 entries, all of them not quite essay, not quite poem. An added bonus: The author is an English professor at Virignia Tech in my home state. I'm going to guess this is a book only a liberal arts college English major could love, and it probably doesn't have wide appeal. But if you enjoy quiet, considered reflections on life, nature, and running, you may like this.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Madeleine

    I wanted to love this book but it didn't live up to my expectations. I admired his making art of something so banal as a training log, but the entries were littered with sentence fragments from the likes of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau. I've read these writers, but I'm not as keen a student of American literature to know their works intimately and recognize the full meaning of how their ideas sing with his. I would have appreciated more explanations (and at 52 pages, th I wanted to love this book but it didn't live up to my expectations. I admired his making art of something so banal as a training log, but the entries were littered with sentence fragments from the likes of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau. I've read these writers, but I'm not as keen a student of American literature to know their works intimately and recognize the full meaning of how their ideas sing with his. I would have appreciated more explanations (and at 52 pages, the book could stand to be lengthened). IMO, many of the more powerful entries were the longer ones, when he took his time and described scenes and memories in more detail. That said, what he does well is capture weakness in us that running exposes: "the look on her face when she was passed in the home stretch, as if some invisible current was sucking her out to sea," "the taste of panic in the last two miles as everything slipped away," "your heart rate rises, your concentration buckles, and you're suddenly flailing around inside, with no landmark save for a familiar hatred of yourself and the ego that made you line up and race. You slow down and turn on yourself." Often running books dwell on glory, but this one, refreshingly, wrestles with grief, failure, and fading.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nick Klagge

    A meditative book about running, by an English professor at Virginia Tech who is also the dad of one of my high school classmates (who herself is name-checked a couple of times). (Check out my own dad's name in the acknowledgements!) Poverty Creek is a place I used to go on hikes as a kid. The book is mostly not about running per se, but about the stuff the author thinks about when he's running, and about his observations of the natural world as well. It's a very brief book, but one I enjoyed re A meditative book about running, by an English professor at Virginia Tech who is also the dad of one of my high school classmates (who herself is name-checked a couple of times). (Check out my own dad's name in the acknowledgements!) Poverty Creek is a place I used to go on hikes as a kid. The book is mostly not about running per se, but about the stuff the author thinks about when he's running, and about his observations of the natural world as well. It's a very brief book, but one I enjoyed reading a lot. Gardner makes pretty frequent allusions to literature, mostly to stuff I haven't read, but he does it in a way that makes it understandable even so. His writing is quite lyrical, but doesn't come across as forced or pretentious. It was sort of next door to reading poetry, which I appreciated as someone who wouldn't generally pick up and read a book of poetry.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Graham Polando

    Disappointing, but that was in part because of the uniformly positive reviews. It’s a very short series of themselves-very-short essays which aren’t about running per se, but the thoughts the author has while running. They are very consciously poetry in prose form, with all the good (perception, insight) and bad (density, obscurity) that entails. I would love to go for a run or take a class with the author, but the book simply didn’t appeal to me, and I’m the ideal market. Wonder what I’m missin Disappointing, but that was in part because of the uniformly positive reviews. It’s a very short series of themselves-very-short essays which aren’t about running per se, but the thoughts the author has while running. They are very consciously poetry in prose form, with all the good (perception, insight) and bad (density, obscurity) that entails. I would love to go for a run or take a class with the author, but the book simply didn’t appeal to me, and I’m the ideal market. Wonder what I’m missing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Bautista

    This is unlike any other writing on running that I've ever encountered. To categorize it as a memoir seems misleading. Gardner writes like a painter, citing dabs of paint, distances between flowers, and the breaking points of muscles. He suggests a kind of literacy of running, an organic formalism, maybe--a way of discerning actual land-marks and self-boundaries--that feels gentle and profound. This is unlike any other writing on running that I've ever encountered. To categorize it as a memoir seems misleading. Gardner writes like a painter, citing dabs of paint, distances between flowers, and the breaking points of muscles. He suggests a kind of literacy of running, an organic formalism, maybe--a way of discerning actual land-marks and self-boundaries--that feels gentle and profound.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Cofer

    Absolutely beautiful prose. Easy to read, but I found myself hanging on nearly every entry.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hamuel Sunter

    This tiny thing I will revisit again and again.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dan Mcdowell

    I love reading other runner’s training journals. I really like when they share details of their runs, and even more what their minds wander to while they are running. But.... what in the hell is this? How did this get published? I’ve seriously read friend’s running journals written decades before I ever knew them that were more poetic, interesting, and compelling... I want more books to be published that combine running journals with literary thoughts that runners have while running... but good I love reading other runner’s training journals. I really like when they share details of their runs, and even more what their minds wander to while they are running. But.... what in the hell is this? How did this get published? I’ve seriously read friend’s running journals written decades before I ever knew them that were more poetic, interesting, and compelling... I want more books to be published that combine running journals with literary thoughts that runners have while running... but good grief what is this book?

  12. 5 out of 5

    John

    Running can become much more than exercise. Poverty Creek Journal is a highly personal and poetic running log, which is the kind of book that the author is uniquely suited to write. He is an avid runner and English professor. For me, the connections between daily running entries and literary references did not resonate with my own experiences as a runner and avid reader.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stephan Willow

    I read a lot of running related books and this one did nothing for me. Two stars was my own take away, but others may have a significantly different take. There were moments in it that kept me in there but it didn’t hold.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aude Hofleitner

    The abstract and random thoughts of runners in the poetic prose of an English professor. It will likely be worth a second read to fully enjoy some of the journal entries.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Heather Durick

    Short essays in journal form but really beautifully written.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Francescajemm

    Beautiful. Running as a metaphor for life. It’s been done before, but his language is gorgeously lyrical and inspiring.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dean Lloyd

    A really delightful collection of meditations whilst running. Thoughtful, touching and in part poetic. I enjoyed it immensely. A publication you can return to and receive different thoughts from.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Simmons

    A beautiful ode to the power of running.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    A combination of a training and racing diary with times and terrain and snippets of memories strung together like blog posts. The types of work outs and the pace put Mr. Garner in the fast end of his age group. The description of the routes are lyrical and the personal stories are spare and evocative. I liked all those parts. But woven in are bits and fragments of literary erudition that read more like they were intended for colleagues and students. I'm not either and what seemed interesting beca A combination of a training and racing diary with times and terrain and snippets of memories strung together like blog posts. The types of work outs and the pace put Mr. Garner in the fast end of his age group. The description of the routes are lyrical and the personal stories are spare and evocative. I liked all those parts. But woven in are bits and fragments of literary erudition that read more like they were intended for colleagues and students. I'm not either and what seemed interesting became annoying.

  20. 4 out of 5

    James Klagge

    This is a journal kept of roughly weekly reflections connected with running in 2012. The author runs the trails around and near Pandapas Pond and Poverty Creek outside of Blacksburg--a beautiful area that I am pretty familiar with. This is well worth reading, especially for runners, but even for non-runners. People ask me: What do you think about when you run? Don't you get bored? Well, I don't get bored, and I think about a lot of things--sometimes figuring out philosophical problems. But my tho This is a journal kept of roughly weekly reflections connected with running in 2012. The author runs the trails around and near Pandapas Pond and Poverty Creek outside of Blacksburg--a beautiful area that I am pretty familiar with. This is well worth reading, especially for runners, but even for non-runners. People ask me: What do you think about when you run? Don't you get bored? Well, I don't get bored, and I think about a lot of things--sometimes figuring out philosophical problems. But my thoughts certainly do not approach the poetic, especially the aesthetic, sensitivity of these thoughts. I read an early draft of some of these reflections and asked the author: Are these the thoughts you are having while running? Or are they thoughts that you have in reflecting on your run? My recollection is that I got a somewhat ambiguous answer. If these are stream of consciousness, they are a much higher consciousness than mine! The author is a much more accomplished and committed runner than I am, but his descriptions of bodily feelings while running are interesting and ring true. He writes about the feelings of effort and persistence and recovery--I liked these ventures to describe a range of experiences familiar to runners. When I first encountered Pandapas Pond I wondered how it compared to Walden Pond, since the setting felt similar. In fact Walden Pond is bigger. (I went there in 2002 with Nick when he was looking at colleges.) But it seems certain that the author chose this setting for these reflections as a gesture to Thoreau. The reflections cover a year--winter to winter, with detailed descriptions of the pond and nature generally. The experience of nature then leads to reflection on a range of other experiences and issues. The author builds many poetic and literary allusions into the reflections. (I urged, perhaps others did too, that the author give citations for the allusions, which he has now done in a discreet list at the end of the book.) The author experiences or reflects on several significant events during the course of the year--not least being the death of his close brother. But these experiences are not overblown, in fact some may think they are too understated. In sum, it means a lot to me to know the setting of these reflections, and know something of the author of the reflections. But, as with those of Thoreau, the reflections themselves are accessible to any thoughtful person, and especially interesting to runners and lovers of the outdoors.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Sources 1. Emily Dickinson, "A little east of Jordan" 2. Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself," section 5 4. Elizabeth Bishop, "Poem" 6. Elizabeth Bishop, "The Man-Moth" 7. Henry David Thoreau, Walden, "SPring" 11. Oliver Sacks, A Leg to Stand On 12. Robert Frost, "Spring Pools" 13. Wallace Stevens, "Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour" 14. John 3:8 15. Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway 16. Elizabeth Bishop, "Cape Breton" 17. Wallace Stevens, "The Idea of Order at Key West" 19. Emily Dickinson, "When Bells stop ri Sources 1. Emily Dickinson, "A little east of Jordan" 2. Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself," section 5 4. Elizabeth Bishop, "Poem" 6. Elizabeth Bishop, "The Man-Moth" 7. Henry David Thoreau, Walden, "SPring" 11. Oliver Sacks, A Leg to Stand On 12. Robert Frost, "Spring Pools" 13. Wallace Stevens, "Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour" 14. John 3:8 15. Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway 16. Elizabeth Bishop, "Cape Breton" 17. Wallace Stevens, "The Idea of Order at Key West" 19. Emily Dickinson, "When Bells stop ringing --Church--begins;" "At Half-past Three" 20. Henry David Thoreau, Walden, "The Ponds" 22. Robert Frost, "Birches" 24. Emily Dickinson, "There's a certain slant of light" 25. HDT, Walden, "Solitude" 26. Kenny Moore, Best Efforts: World Class Runners and Races 27. Ezra Pound, Canto LXXXI 29. Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, Section 28 30. Susan Howe, The Birth Mark: unsettling the wildness in American literary history; Georges Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life 31. Emily Dickinson, "I see thee better--in the Dark" 32. Jonathan Edwards, "The Spider Letter" 33. Robert Irwin, in Lawrence Weschler, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees 35. Seamus Heaney, The Government of the Tongue 36. Emily Dickinson, "Don't put up my Thread & Needle" 39. Simone Weil, "Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God," and "Attention and Will" 40. Wallace Stevens, "The Plain Sense of Things,"; Genesis 1:8 42. Walt Whitman, "Preface" to Leaves of Grass 44. Herman Melville, Moby Dick, "The Mast-Head" 46. Emily Dickinson, "A Light Exists in Spring" 47. Stanley Cavell, "Thinking of Emerson" 48. Justin Kaplan, Walt Whitman: A Life; Walt Whitman: A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim" 49. Emily Dickinson, "On a Columnar Self --"; Wallace Stevens, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" 50. James Wright, "To a Blossoming Pear Tree"; H.D. "Sea Violet" 52. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Part I, 107.

  22. 4 out of 5

    David Anthony Sam

    In this slim volume of meditations, we listen as Thomas Gardner interweaves his running, nature, and the loss of his brother with reflections on the writings of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman. and other poets and philosophers. He speaks simply but profoundly, his images of the natural world he encounters on his runs expressed with quiet poetry: "Bushes and leaves, heavy with frost, bending down to sip, drawing the light, in secret, to their lips." His mourning is poignant and not self-pitying: "Now In this slim volume of meditations, we listen as Thomas Gardner interweaves his running, nature, and the loss of his brother with reflections on the writings of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman. and other poets and philosophers. He speaks simply but profoundly, his images of the natural world he encounters on his runs expressed with quiet poetry: "Bushes and leaves, heavy with frost, bending down to sip, drawing the light, in secret, to their lips." His mourning is poignant and not self-pitying: "Now I'm alone, wordless, with the strangest sens of being set apart to mourn or notice. I'm not sure which. The wind above us, moving across space." He quotes Simone Weil: "Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer." Gardner's Poverty Creek Journal shows this to be true on every page.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Terzah

    Recommended by the New Yorker as a means to explain to non-runners what people think about while running, this slim little diary does indeed capture the sometimes labored, sometimes blissful flow of thoughts that occurs when you've put your body in motion. The author is an English professor in Virginia, and I loved the literary references he sprinkled throughout, but his own prose was just as beautiful. This is one those books that makes you wish you'd thought of writing it first. I'll return to Recommended by the New Yorker as a means to explain to non-runners what people think about while running, this slim little diary does indeed capture the sometimes labored, sometimes blissful flow of thoughts that occurs when you've put your body in motion. The author is an English professor in Virginia, and I loved the literary references he sprinkled throughout, but his own prose was just as beautiful. This is one those books that makes you wish you'd thought of writing it first. I'll return to it many times. It's just too bad it's so hard to get! I had to find it via Interlibrary Loan.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jacobo

    A short set of running journal entries that span across the whole of 2012. I found this book to be a joy in the words. It reminded me of reading Auster, though I would not say they are similar at all. I should probably read Auster this year. Reading the entries in this book was akin to looking at a collection of beatiful photographs. It was fascinating to see how the mind wanders while one runs, and quite shocking to see the the runs continue no matter what: sickness, horrible weather, death of rel A short set of running journal entries that span across the whole of 2012. I found this book to be a joy in the words. It reminded me of reading Auster, though I would not say they are similar at all. I should probably read Auster this year. Reading the entries in this book was akin to looking at a collection of beatiful photographs. It was fascinating to see how the mind wanders while one runs, and quite shocking to see the the runs continue no matter what: sickness, horrible weather, death of relatives. The body demands to be pushed forward.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This book is a gem. As a runner I thoroughly enjoyed reading his thoughts before, while, and after running. I'm the kind of person who enjoys running with no distractions, just nature and the trail, so this book was right up my alley. I wish it were 300 pages instead of just 54. It's a treat for non-runners too but if you're a frequent outdoor person, give this a read. It's a delightful blend of poetry, prose, and ideas. This book is a gem. As a runner I thoroughly enjoyed reading his thoughts before, while, and after running. I'm the kind of person who enjoys running with no distractions, just nature and the trail, so this book was right up my alley. I wish it were 300 pages instead of just 54. It's a treat for non-runners too but if you're a frequent outdoor person, give this a read. It's a delightful blend of poetry, prose, and ideas.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Noelle Bakken

    I connected with this book so much more than I ever expected. It felt like reading back many of the observations I make subconsciously on my own runs (minus the literary references, most of which were lost on me). I'll be picking this one up often to re-read and digest his words more; this book makes me want to take off and go for a solitary run in the woods. Beautiful (and likely puts most running journals to shame) I connected with this book so much more than I ever expected. It felt like reading back many of the observations I make subconsciously on my own runs (minus the literary references, most of which were lost on me). I'll be picking this one up often to re-read and digest his words more; this book makes me want to take off and go for a solitary run in the woods. Beautiful (and likely puts most running journals to shame)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Todd Johnson

    Think of your favorite course during the best tasting menu you ever had. Two perfect bites, ideally suited to your tastes. That is this book, for me right now: a melancholy almost-poem about literature, nature, family, aging, loss, and running. I read almost every page two or three times, is maybe the only thing I can add. Here is a review (sort of) that is better than mine: http://www.newyorker.com/news/sportin... Think of your favorite course during the best tasting menu you ever had. Two perfect bites, ideally suited to your tastes. That is this book, for me right now: a melancholy almost-poem about literature, nature, family, aging, loss, and running. I read almost every page two or three times, is maybe the only thing I can add. Here is a review (sort of) that is better than mine: http://www.newyorker.com/news/sportin...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    A beautiful, slim journal that combines the author's passions for running and for words. Presented as a memoir of sorts in 50+ brief entries, this book is thick with literary allusions and personal revelations all grounded in the physicality of distance running in the natural setting of Pandapas Pond, my own home trail system. Beautiful, understated, and sublimely rich with imagery, this little book can be breath-taking in its simplicity. A beautiful, slim journal that combines the author's passions for running and for words. Presented as a memoir of sorts in 50+ brief entries, this book is thick with literary allusions and personal revelations all grounded in the physicality of distance running in the natural setting of Pandapas Pond, my own home trail system. Beautiful, understated, and sublimely rich with imagery, this little book can be breath-taking in its simplicity.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cortney

    This journal is mesmerizing. The author is a runner and basically gives weekly reflections into his runs, except it's not about running at all. At 52 pages, it's his thoughts, feelings and how he's working through life and it's glories and hardships while running. I have a feeling I'll be re-reading this book throughout the years and probably will enjoy it more each time I do. This journal is mesmerizing. The author is a runner and basically gives weekly reflections into his runs, except it's not about running at all. At 52 pages, it's his thoughts, feelings and how he's working through life and it's glories and hardships while running. I have a feeling I'll be re-reading this book throughout the years and probably will enjoy it more each time I do.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andy Gagnon

    One of the best books I've ever read about what it's like to go on a run. 52 entries over the course of a year. Also, there are many literary references that are over my head, which is enjoyable in another way. One of the best books I've ever read about what it's like to go on a run. 52 entries over the course of a year. Also, there are many literary references that are over my head, which is enjoyable in another way.

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