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The Swimmer


53 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations


  Hardcover / 9780807111550 / June 1984

In The Swimmer, Susan Ludvingson writes of the enveloping sensuality of swimming—gliding beneath the waves, basking in shimmering light on the surface, drifting in the pleasure of the water. In these poems, swimming can be the perfect escape from life, a sublime refuge from the cares and agonies that lie on the shore or wait at the edge of the pool.

Ludvingson begins with poems that speak of the griefs that punctuate life. She writes of the fearsome mysteries of passion, the agonies that can be reawakened by memory, the sabotage of dreams, the sadness of living in a world painfully contracted by the deaths of loved ones.

It’s not the world I care about now,
but a few lives.
Yours. Mine. The friends
who go on dying.
After Don, after, Anne,
I can hardly believe how it continues.

She then turns to poems that seek escape from grief, in the dark humor of obscure news items—“Man Arrested in Hacking Death Tells Police He mistook Mother-in-Law for Raccoon”—and in the absorbing depths of art.

But these are escapes of the mind, momentary transformations of identity that cannot finally bring calm to the spirit. In the final section of the book, Ludvingson returns to the lure of the water:

Under that starry sky, you’ll float
in the shadows of shadows.
three might be no end t it, just water
darkening into night, then slowly
restoring itself.
to blue. The silence will be a new entrance
to dreams, sleep a new way to breathe.

Sensual and moving these are poems of renewal and of loss, poems that seek the moments of calm amid the jagged hours of daily life.

Susan Ludvigson is the author of eight previous volumes of poems and the recipient of Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Fulbright, NEA, and Witter Bynner Fellowships. A native of Wisconsin, she has made her home in the South for more than thirty years and travels to France as much as possible. She teaches at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

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