Poetry will have a place at this summer’s Olympic Games in London thanks to the Winning Words program, conceived of by National Poetry Day founder William Sieghart. Sieghart is working with London’s Olympic organizing groups to display poetry throughout the city’s Olympic Park. The project aims to bring some of the history of the park to life while also drawing attention to poetry itself.
By Jo Shapcott
Open this box
you are mostly water
in your element
Surface in the Bow Back Rivers, quite at home
because you are small and tidal like them.
Here, the River Lea became a man-made mesh
of streams and channels to drain the marsh,
a maze for lightermen, of channels through
old waste, today's liquid green corridors.
Count off rivers as you swim: Bow Creek, the Waterworks,
the Channelsea, the City Mill, Hennikers Ditch.
Swimming through time is rough: all swamp
and sewage until the Northern Outfall drain
where you don't swim but give a grateful nod
as you plunge with kingfishers, otters, voles.
Backstroke through the past
and remember how Alfred the Great
dug the Channelsea to keep out Danes
and how the mill streams powered on
through centuries. Waterworks were King.
Swoop underwater through the Prescott Channel,
touching pieces of the lost Euston Arch as you go
and break surface among reeds, oak, willow, ash.
Shoot under the stadium itself,
where the little Pudding Mill River runs:
at last dive up into a building shaped like a wave
and swim your heart out, for you are all gold.