I Knew More Then Than I Know Now: C4Atlanta, Day 3

Just under the wire, responding to the question of my favorite work–my own piece of writing. This question reminds me of the hedging that sometimes occur when people ask about favorite children; as the mother of six, I have come to see that I love them all–but some days, am proudest of one’s accomplishments, or most anxious about another’s challenges. The love is constant, but the focus changes.

I write in a few genres: poetry, nonfiction essays, and journalism. Within each of these, I have favorite pieces. (And others which I would once have tossed in the trash, that are now immortalized somewhere on the web.) Among my favorites is a long poem I wrote when I was 18: “Sixty-four caprices for a long-distance swimmer.” At the time, I’d have been a likely candidate to major in English, but instead chose math, always a challenge for me.

I hated writing papers! And so to avoid having to write one for a psychology class, received persmission to write a narrative poem. I swam almost daily in the brand-new pool at Guilford College, and just loved the place: the view of the campus woods, the solitude, the occasional interactions with half-naked professors. The poem eventually appeared in an anthology of sports poetry–the only collection of verse ever reviewed by Sports Illustrated.

Some years later, the poem was anthologized in a collection of English literature: positioned on pages between Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman! I was stunned by my arrival.

This spring, when Diana Nyad completed her historic swim, I googled the poem, and discovered a version online, courtesy of a Yale professor who was using it to teach an undergraduate class. As close as I’ll ever get to Yale!

Anymore, when I read that poem, I can hear the girl I was: She was so sure of herself. She was so confident in her vision. She was so certain in every thing she had to say, and so sure others would be delighted to hear.

That’s the point to which I would like to return as my creative journey continues: That confident center, that willingness to write without self-criticism preventing the first word from reaching the page. And then to release the work into a larger world, where others can make of it what they will. That connection is what I crave and enjoy most.

 

Key words: poetry, writing, swimming, sports, C4Atlanta