The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner: "Alden Nowlan" Summary
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is a short cynical modern poem composed by Alden Nowlan. This poem is directly an experience a poet had while writing it.
The poet was composing a love poem. His wife gets into his room and disturbs him. The writer has to stop writing to glance at her. He may have been writing about his love and affection towards his wife, but when she herself appears before him, the poet doesn't like her appearance. It is self-contradictory in the life of an imaginative and creative artist. His wife interrupts his meditative mood. As a result of her lively and active appearance, he has to stop his writing. The sequence of imagination and emotion gets lost at once. The loss of imagination and emotion causes the loss of the poem itself. The result is that he begin to curse her.
Application of Four Levels
- Literal Comprehension
The poet was sitting in his room. He was writing a poem. He was deeply lost in his writing. He was writing a poem about his love for his wife. At that time his wife entered suddenly into the room. Her arrival disturbed his writing. He forgets what he was writing. So, he was angry with her. But he wasn't able to express his anger openly. He silently cursed her.
In this single-sentenced poem, the poet may be trying to tell us that creativity needs silence and peaceful environment. Any creativity requires deep concentration and thinking. So, a creative person must not be interrupted during his imagination.Any new idea, new thought or any type of innovation can be generated only with the peaceful mind. The poem suggests us that we should not interrupt or disturb the creative person and we should also try to maintain the silence and peaceful environment for their deep concentration. The poem also tells us that he/she must be left in peaceful surrounding so that he can run long distance in his loneliness, that is, he/she can make images in his/her imagination.
The poem also reveals the male love for women. As the poet was in his loneliness, and deep thinking he imagined about his wife and was writing a poem for his wife. This shows the passion, affection, love, emotions and deep feeling of man towards women. On the other side, the poet might also be trying to tell us that all human beings are selfish. They love other people for their own sake, not for the sake of loved ones. The poet loved his poems, not his wife. That is why he was angry with her. He lost his poem, she was abused silently. The poet wanted to make himself immortal by writing a beautiful poem about his wife. When she disturbed him in doing so, he was angry.
- Critical Thinking
Though the poem is informative and tells us that creativity requires peaceful environment, some ideas presented in the poem are less convincing. The poem is about real experience of poet, but how can real experience be forgotten within a moment? How can poet curse his wife about whom he was describing his love? Are the words sufficient to describe the way we love our beloved ones? The poet wants to be immortal. He wants to preserve his name for a long time. Instead of loving his wife, he loves her in poems only. So he writes love poems about her. In the race of his life, the poet feels that he is lonely. His wife does not support him. Does her bursting into the writing suggest that she does not like his writing?
When I read this poem I came to know why my wife does not like my reading all the time. When I read a love poem or a love story, identified myself and my wife with the main characters. Then I would enjoy loving her. But she did not understand this love of mine for her. Now I know what she needs is real love, not my imaginary love.
(Bastakoti, (2007). A Combined Guide To Compulsory English. Kathmandu: Kalyani Prakshan)