I am collecting swimming pool poems. If you know of any – or have written something yourself! – I’d love to hear about it. I am specifically interested in public pools, indoor or outdoor. More details on the background to this can be found below.
My list so far, in the order of discovery…
Swimming Ool / Kenn Nesbit
Swimming in the Presence of Lurid Opposition / Sawako Nakayasu
Swimming / SayakaRxy
Ladies’ Hour / Robin Houghton
Community Pool / John Burnside (Black Cat Bone, 2011)
Swimming Pool Poems / Anthea Garman
Swimming Pool 2020 / Annik Adey-Babinski
The Swimming Pool / Thomas Lux
In the Swimming Pool / Giedré Kazlauskaité, translated by Rimas Uzgiris
Highbury Pool / Kate Bingham (Quicksand Beach, 2006)
Investigations at the Public Baths / Allen Curnow (Early Days Yet: New & Collected Poems, 1997)
Swimming lesson / Lorraine Mariner (Furniture, 2009)
Say I forgot / Lorraine Mariner (Furniture, 2009)
Saturday in the Pool / Leontia Flynn (Drives, 2008)
To swim with open fingers / Roger Moulson (Waiting for the Night Rowers, 2006)
Half the pool was lit and half in shadow / Roger Moulson (Waiting for the Night Rowers, 2006)
Boys’ School Pool / Fiona Benson (Poetry Wales 56.3 2021)
London Aquatics Centre, Stratford / Fathima Zahra
The old men at the swimming pool / Clive Wilmer
Going Swimmingly / Katherine Pierpoint
What I Think About When I’m Swimming / Hannah Lowe
Swimming Pool / John Kinsella
WHERE ARE ALL THE SWIMMING POOL POEMS?
One evening in March 2020, swimming after work at my leisure centre in Newham, east London, I started wondering about swimming pool poems.
By which I mean swimming in public pools.
Length after length, I couldn’t think of any, and walking home I started to Google.
Look for ‘swimming poems’ and of course, there are plenty, but these are predominantly about wild swimming, the pleasures of an often solitary experience outdoors, connecting with nature and the self. I love to get into a lake or the sea at any opportunity. But living where I do, the great outdoors is not the easiest means of getting into the water. That’s the local pool.
That night after my swim I tried to narrow my search but didn’t discover much in the internet’s depths. There was Kenn Nesbitt’s humorous ‘Swimming Ool’ and Sawako Nakayasu’s wonderful ‘Swimming in the Presence of Lurid Opposition’. I loved the true-life fervour of teenager SayakaRxy’s poem ‘Swimming’ on TeenInk – ‘Goggles snapped on, hair shoved in, / She’s pristine, crisp and clean. // Swimming like a tenacious trout.’ But that was it, and they weren’t easily found.
Where, I wondered, where all the swimming pool poems? The lanes and lifeguards and lessons and lengths? The warm-ups and whistles and Kiss FM? The families and fanatics and fun-time-with-floats?
I thought I’d like the kids I see in lessons at my pool to be able to Google ‘Swimming Poems’ and not get beach, sea, lakes, rivers, California… but rather indoor pools, tiles, chlorine, swimming-caps, not-enough-lockers, fluorescent lights. I’d like the swimming teachers to be able to do this too.
Going through collections and continuing to search online, I am collecting swimming pool poems. I am specifically interested in public pools, indoor or outdoor, though have made exceptions (for example Thomas Lux’s ‘The Swimming Pool’) if the experience of a pool is public.
If you know of any – or have written something yourself! – I’d love to hear about it. Please send me a message using the Contact form here.
So far, I’ve not thought beyond collecting and enjoying these poems, but I hope it might develop into something more down the lane…