April 12, 2016

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Poetry Friday

It was a thrill to be in London right before the Olympics, even though we didn't make it to the games.

Olympic countdown clock in Trafalgar Square (which was oddly free of pigeons).

My kids are getting a kick out of watching pre-Olympics news coverage. They spot sites we visited and say, "We were there!" (They even saw our Tower of London tour guide.)
Tower Bridge seen from the Tower of London's grounds.
Because I live near Baltimore, home of Michael Phelps, swimming is a big story here. No poet has written about swimming with the beauty and depth of understanding Maxine Kumin has for the sport. According to the Poetry Archive, Kumin was a competitive swimmer as a child. (She has also written books for children, which I will have to check out.)

Here is her poem, "To Swim, To Believe"

To Swim, To Believe

by Maxine Kumin

Centre College, Danville, Kentucky

The beautiful excess of Jesus on the waters
is with me now in the Boles Natatorium.
This bud of me exults, giving witness:
these flippers that rose up to be arms.
These strings drawn to be fingers.
Legs plumped to make my useful fork.
Each time I tear this seam to enter,
all that I carry is taken from me,
shucked in the dive.
Lovers, children, even words go under.
Matters of dogma spin off in the freestyle
earning that mid-pool spurt, like faith.
Where have I come from? Where am I going?

Read the rest at  Ed Hirsch's "Poet's Choice."

One of my favorite concrete poems -- more subtle than most shape poems -- is Kumin's "400 Meter Freestyle," which you can find here, with questions for the classroom. The swimmer in "400 Meter Freestyle" is racing. This one's a good fit if you're looking for Olympics-themed poems.
So long, from Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square!
Enjoy this Friday's poetry posts by visiting Life is Better with Books. If you have a moment, please vote for my blog -- Author Amok has been nominated for a Fascination Award. The voting page has been updated and you can now vote.


laurasalas said...

I love

gliding back and forth

erasing my own stitch marks in this lane?

My younger daughter just was at UT-Knoxville for a weeklong conference and got to swim in the pool Phelps supposedly trained in. She's not a sports or Olympics fan, really, but the aura impressed even her:>)

Robyn Hood Black said...

Hi, Laura! Such a perfect post for this opening ceremony day. Love these lines:

all that I carry is taken from me,

shucked in the dive

Welcome home from your British excursion; I've really enjoyed spying on your pictures etc. And being jealous.

Katya said...

I'm reasonably tech savvy and I couldn't figure out how to vote, either!
There is supposed to be a list, under comments, when you go to the Google+ page, but most of the contests don't have a list posted yet even though voting ends this weekend. Very, very, very confusing.

Tabatha said...

What a poem! Going to save that one. I saw a billboard of Michael Phelps the last time I was in Baltimore. We will be rooting for him!

Author Amok said...

Hi, All. I love the spirituality the water brings to the speaker:

"Each time I tear this seam to enter,
all that I carry is taken from me"

Katya, thanks for trying and confirming that there's a problem. I was happy for the unexpected nomination, so whatever the outcome, it's all good!

Mary Lee said...

Laura Salas snagged my favorite part at the starting line of the comments.

Thank you for a group of poems to accompany me in my recent return to lap swimming. It is a remarkably spiritual thing, being in water, finding a rhythm, the mantra of the lap count...

Violet N. said...

I took a look at the concrete poem. It took my breath away - quite literally. Thanks for posting these interesting poems on the Olympics opening ceremonies day!