How to be a fish, or like a fish, or with the fish. To be in water, for the love of water. All lake, all longing to be submerged.
note: I’m using this virtual space to gather together resources, ideas, images, other peoples’ words about water. I’ve done a lot of research — albeit in an undisciplined way — about water. And I’m constantly revising and adding to poems about water and swimming. Slowly, I’m building up one or two or more collections featuring water.
- The Unnamed River/ Arthur Sze
- Morning Swim/ Maxine Kumin
- The Nude Swim/ Anne Sexton
- Water in Love/ Ed Bok Lee
- Open Water/ Ada Limón
- Smile/ Lorine Niedecker
- Fog-thick morning/ Lorine Niedecker
- The Thing Is/ Ellen Bass
- The Pond at Dusk/ JANE KENYON
- Exercise/ W.S. Merwin (may 1972)
- To Swim, To Believe/ Maxine Kumin
- I started early, took my dog/ Emily Dickinson
- After the Dragonflies/ W.S. Merwin
- Fish/ MARY ANN HOBERMAN
- 7 Shard/ CAConrad
- Sound Waves/ Amy Ludwig VanDerwate
- After the Rain/ Jared Carter
- WAVE AFTER WAVE/ M. Bartley Seigel
- Sea Poem/ Alice Oswald
- From Nowhere/ Marie Howe
- Evaporations/ Alice Oswald
- A Swim in Co. Wicklow/ DEREK MAHON
- Summer Rain/John Waters
- Swimming in the Rain/ Chana Bloch
- Heavy Summer Rain/ Jane Kenyon
- Rain/ Kazim Ali
- The Rainwalkers/ Denise Levertov
- Fog/ Carl Sandburg
- And the Old Man Speaks of Paradise: a Ghazal/ Wang Ping
- Swimming/ Sarah Arvio
- The Fish/ Elizabeth Bishop
- Preface from ‘swims’/ Elizabeth-Jane Burnett
- Out of Water/ Marie Ponsot
- Lake Water/ David Ferry
- Be Water My Friend/ Bruce Lee
- Vow/ Diana Khoi Nguyen
- 2 Mississippi/ Steve Healey
- Breakage/ Mary Oliver
- WATER/ Li Young-Lee
- I Go Down To The Shore/ Mary Oliver
- Holmes Lake/ Jessica Poli
- Corsons Inlet/ A. R. Ammons
- Wrong Side of the River/ Stanley Plumly
- Have you got a Brook in your little heart
- Paean to Place/ LORINE NIEDECKER
- from EXAQUA [Oh, that’s what I was]/ Jan-Henry Gray
- The Humpbacks/ Mary Oliver
- ROCK BOTTOM/ Eamon Grennan
- Buoy/ Savannah V. Evans
- A Short Story of Falling/ ALICE OSWALD
- The Fish/ Mary Oliver
- Portrait of a Figure Near Water/ Jane Kenyon
- from The Cataract of Lodore/ Robert Southey
- The River/ HUMBERTO AK’ABAL
- Dart/ Alice Oswald especially the swimmer
- A RUSHED ACCOUNT OF THE DEW / Alice Oswald
- All/ Jorie Graham
- Still Life with Window and Fish / Jorie Graham (recording)
- Swimming Laps/ Arthur Sze
- The Ponds/ Mary Oliver
- Moist/ Anna Myles
- Swimming, One Day in August/ Mary Oliver
- Rain/ Kazim Ali
Some Themes I’m Pursuing
One: Water and Stone
It is the nature of stone
to be satisfied.
It is the nature of water
to want to be somewhere else.
Everywhere we look:
the sweet guttural swill of the water
Everywhere we look:
the stone, basking in the sun,
or offering itself“Gravel”/Mary Oliver
to the golden lichen.
Literal and Metaphorical Meanings of Water
- Literal: The sensation of swimming in rough water, with waves crashing into me or rocking me or pushing me along. Currents that move me off course. Tall waves that disorient. Swells that make it harder to stroke in the water and breathe. All the spray. Feeling powerful as I use my shoulders to lift higher out of the water and slice through it. The initial panic I feel as I adjust to breathing and stroking differently. The enjoyment I get out of wrestling with the water. The satisfaction, from staying on course. The way time disappears as I focus on breathing and not swallowing too much water–no before or after, only now.
- Metaphorical: Waves of emotion–grief, joy, worry, anxiety–washing over me. Often unanticipated, invisible at first, like the lake from the shore looking deceptively calm. Learning to handle the intensity/overwhelmingness: fighting the waves, surrendering to them, learning to adapt and adjust, relenting to the water or moving with instead of against it. Water as cleansing, scouring, washing away memories. Flowing, erasing, saturating.
Three: Differences between lakes, rivers, seas
Differences between different bodies of water: lakes, river, seas (I’m suddenly remembering my discussion of ED and brooks — see: march 13, 2021 and the quotation I posted about lakes versus rivers from For Love of Lakes / Darby Nelson — see: august 16, 2021)
More of Others’ Words
excerpt from The First Water Is the Body/ Natalie Diaz
The Colorado River is the most endangered river in the United States— also, it is a part of my body.
I carry a river. It is who I am: ‘Aha Makav. This is not metaphor.
When a Mojave says, Inyech ‘Aha Makavch ithuum, we are saying our name. We are telling a story of our existence. The river runs through the middle of my body.
So far, I have said the word river in every stanza. I don’t want to waste water. I must preserve the river in my body.
In future stanzas, I will try to be more conservative.
excerpt from Wilderness/ Carl Sandburg
There is a fish in me . . . I know I came from salt-blue water-gates . . . I scurried with shoals of herring . . . I blew waterspouts with porpoises . . . before land was . . . before the water went down . . . before Noah . . . before the first chapter of Genesis.