Elizabeth-Jane Burnett explores the writing process of her debut collection Swims and the act of wild swimming itself in a blog piece for the Outdoor Swimming Society.
Bright orange armbands against a turquoise swimsuit. Body as small as water is large. Arm against waist, striking out into open water. After a while, everything slackens: muscle, limbs, thought. There is only water. Time carries me gently, until I realise that the arm, the one keeping me safe, has gone. I turn to see my father at the shore, and realise I have been swimming. This was my first swim. I recall it in the closing poem of the collection, ‘The Dart’:
but however quick the split between worlds opens up
however fast plates move beneath water breaks below planet
however soon the body is called back into building into posture
there is a glimpse of an orange armband and an arm missing
from a waist that turned to see him watch as I pulled away
for the first time unaided into wildness,
unable to stand but able to swim (a river is not a river without him).
I hadn’t intended for this collection of swimming poems to feature my father, or be overtly confessional, but the water brings many things to the surface.