I’ve just read Al Alvarez's book Pondlife: A Swimmer's Journal in which he chronicles his daily dips in Hampstead Heath ponds. As a poet and critic, he draws many parallels between his beloved pond water and many great literary themes – birth, life, death, nature – referencing several writers along the way. For example, preoccupied as he is with his own ageing and ailing health, Alvarez cites John Cheever’s short story, ‘The Swimmer’, in which the protagonist grows old in the space of just one afternoon’s swimming – ‘the animal delight of youth running out… seeping away…’. (Another really wonderful book to read if you love both swimming and literature is Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero by Charles Sprawson.)
Alvarez’s swimming diary has inspired me to keep one of my own for a week or so, except I’m going to write short poems instead – ‘tweet-sized’ poems to be exact, a few lines each day that can be fitted into the 140 characters allowed by Twitter. Although I don’t have Hampstead Ponds, I do have the very beautiful River Itchen at the bottom of my garden which I will endeavour to get into every day…
Here is today’s effort:
It seemed the river had turned its cold, dark back to me,
But then I dived, its grace flowed over my head - not aloof at all, just free.
Follow me on twitter for a daily river poem…