(Almost) Last Year
January Recommendations

The Art of Swimming: An Erasure Poem

The art of swimming
Has a human, dedicated

Each activity, the flowering,
Settles on a certain ability.

The ones called “enchantment”
Consist of the reality
of magic.

Translated from the Spanish by Susan Thomsen


El arte de nadar
Tiene un carácter
Humano, dedicado.

Cada actividad, el florecimiento
Se posa en una cierta habilidad

Las llamadas «encantamiento»
Consisten en la realidad
de mágica.

Source: Diccionario del Uso del Español A-H, by María Moliner. Madrid: Editorial Gredos, Segunda Edición, 1998.


This erasure poem (original version included, below) grew out of choosing "art" as my word for 2024. Once I picked that, my plans gained some focus, and I decided to consult one of my Spanish dictionaries. The phrase "el arte de nadar" ("the art of swimming") in the entry for "arte" surprised me, and let me know I was on the right track, er, in the right lane. I love swimming! Everything else followed, and it felt very productive to sharpen pencils, underline stuff, and use the copier. Plus also, markers! After selecting the Spanish words I wanted, I arranged them into lines and breaks, and then translated that into English. The poem/s endured a number of iterations and revisions (and tweaks for agreement). If I had more time, I'd redo the visual presentation (seen below), maybe get out some Liquid Paper and white-out to my heart's content.

In the image, the "artar" and "art déco" entries are just window dressing; they have nothing to do with the poem itself.

For additional information on erasure/blackout poems, I suggest Erin Dorney's "6 Styles of Erasure Poetry" at Trish Hopkinson's blog.

The Poetry Friday roundup for January 5th is at Marcie Flinchum Atkins' place. I hope that one day Marcie will write a book about writing poetry because she has all kinds of good ideas and approaches to the matter.

Erasure poem  new version


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What a perfect first Poetry Friday post for me to read this year, Susan. I swam this morning, and most days this week, and love the phrase 'art of swimming' as something that really captures both the physical process and the magic that occurs in the water. I loved hearing your process too, with the translation process adding an extra layer to the erasure poem process.

Sally, I am so glad to hear your comments! Since last fall I’ve been trying to swim laps once a week. As a kid I was on a summer swim team, and while I was not a fast swimmer, the experience gave me skills for life!

Susan, this will be a rich year indeed with "art" at its center. I love it! You could do a whole series of "art of..." poems. Thanks for sharing!

Oh, Susan, I love this! It's impressive on every level, from the source to the translation to the finished poem. I especially love "the reality of magic." ❤️

And "art" for a word-of-the-year is laden with possibility. Magical!

I love to swim and find it magical to swim underwater and float as I look at the sky. What a great project and in Spanish! Love this!

Susan, I am looking at a rippling lake right now, and your poem made me want to dive in. There is something magical about swimming. (Sadly, the water is very cold, so I will need to wait a few months!)

arte - such a lovely word in the mouth, saying it to the world, looking for it daily... and what a delight to read your Spanish poem and see your process birth this art. Thank you, Susan!

Irene, yes, I like that "art of..." idea a lot. Thank you!

Karen, thanks so much! There was so much to choose from in the dictionary definition, and I was so happy to find, unexpectedly, several mentions of magic.

Another swimmer. Yay, Janice! When I swim my mind wanders, but I do try to appreciate the water and everything I see at the pool. I find pools very beautiful.

Oh, wow, Tracey, lucky you to live near a lake! As a Pisces, I do find water magic, too.

Patricia, I agree with you about "arte." Spanish is such a beautiful language, isn't it? I LOVE the idea of looking for art daily. It's a way of staying positive for me.

What a perfect OLW for you! Something that's already so much of who you are and what you do, but with more intention.

Your title captured my swimmer's heart! LOVE that you found swimming in the entry for art. What other surprises away you/us this year?

As for "If I had more time, I'd redo the visual presentation," maybe you should rephrase/rethink that. Could it become "My next exploration of art will be to redo the visual presentation" ??? (winkwink)

I love ART as your word! And I'm a big fan of erasure poetry. I do it with students every year.

Art is a great word! I have never tried erasure poetry. Thank you for the link to find out more. After reading your wonderful poem, I just might try one later today!

I am so impressed by your work here, Susan - "the reality of magic" is a phrase that jumped out at me - so dichotomous.

That is a GREAT idea about a future art presentation, Mary Lee. Y'all are helping me so much with suggestions. After I decided on my word, I thought about which museum show I'd like to see next and found one about an Argentine artist at the Jewish Museum in NYC. I have not been yet, but that focus has already come in handy.

Marcie, yes to art! I love it that you teach erasure poetry to your students. I would have LOVED something like that as a kid.

Linda, do try it. The challenge is super fun.

Rose, thank you! The process of erasure poetry sometimes encourages phrases that, were I writing a "regular" way, I would not have thought of. I like the inherent surprises in it.

In the right lane-hehe. What a fun word for the year!

Plus, it rhymes with a lot of words. Ha.

What a delicious poem you culled out of your erasure, and I loved hearing about how it evolved too, and the multi colored markers! Wishing you many journeys with "art" this year, thanks Susan!

Thank you, Michelle! I am going to enjoy exploring all the art around me. So much to see.

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