Friday 12 March 2010

Going Swimmingly

My last swim was almost two weeks ago as I've been under par - not completely laid up, but not quite up to the joy of swimming either. I spent today with a group of friends whose shared experience is our work. One of these friends swims on a regular basis in Llyn Tegid - Lake Bala in Wales. Talking with her and seeing the weather forecast - 'bright and milder' - made me want to dust off the wetsuit and jump in. Well, getting back in a swimming pool will be a move in the right direction...
And, as for swimming in the great outdoors, I found this fascinating link. It's a memo by Roger Deakin in a House of Commons debate. He cites a passionate, lyrical piece by Kate  Kellaway about outdoor swimming and writing!!
Continuing with my theme of poems by women in International Women's Week, here's the swimming poem by Katherine Pierpoint that Kate Kellaway refers to in her piece: 

Going Swimmingly

The blue-rinsed pool is full of rhythmic, lone strokers.
It drew us in from the edges as though it were blotter-dry and we were rushing liquid.
Swimming, an occasional, unseen toe contact
Seems to come long after the other solemn face bobbed by;
The body lengthens, a pale streamer drifting out under a Chinese lantern.

Standing in the pool,blinking and pinching your nose, brings
A strange, slewed perspective down to the wavering floor -
Firm, cream shoulders, telescoped to no trunk,
Standing on skewing, marbled shimmypuppet legs,
Fatdappled with fallen blue petals of curling light.

Swimming, everything is simplified.
The eye level so low, a baby's out along the drunken carpet.
A rhythmic peace, of rocking and being rocked,
Plaiting yourself into the water,
Ploughing an intricate, soft turtle-track along the undersurface,
Each stroke a silver link in the chain that melts behind you.

Sheer weight and size of water!
Remembering some geography and its clean, cross-section diagrams -
The sea is an upside-down mountain of water,
An up-turned yogi
Alive with pulling, fluid muscles;
A pressing city of water; a universe;
The town pool is an inverted block of flats, something
Gathered and gently milling. Container for a small revolution.
Hands trying to pray. Legs slowly trying to fly.
Simple, straining juxtapositions -
Waterbuffalo! Hovercraft! Starfish!
The water on fire in volcanoes and set in earth in amber!

The swimmer broaches a strange but yielding density;
Leans quietly into a huge, enfolding flank.
Reaches over, forward and out; to re-test the limits,
Smooth the limbs,
Of a rediscovered lover.

Katherine Pierpoint

From 'Modern Women Poets' edited by Deryn Rees-Jones, Bloodaxe

Beautiful, isn't it!!


  1. Talking about empty(ish) pools......
    That's a great photo. Is it a local pool in Manchester?

    PS I was looking through your 'books featuring swimming', and I wondered if you'd read 'At Swim, Two Boys' by Jamie O'Neill?

  2. no Chris, the pool is a picture I just found on the internet, I think it is in Portugal.
    And 'at swim two boys' is on the pool by the side of my bed - oops I mean pile!! - waiting to be read!