Meditations on swimming – writer takes the plunge


Associate Professor Ingrid Horrocks is launching her new book of non-fiction, 'Where We Swim.' (photo/Ebony Lamb)



Cover of the New Zealand edition




Swimming – that quintessential Kiwi summer experience – is also the theme of new book by Massey University Creative Writing Associate Professor Ingrid Horrocks. She explores her love of immersion in water as the launchpad for meditations on family dynamics and ecological crises.

Titled Where We Swim (Victoria University Press), the non-fiction text will be launched at Unity Books in Wellington on 11 March at 6pm (COVID-19 alert levels permitting). 

From beloved bays, beaches and rivers at home to the waters of Perth and the Peruvian Amazon, Dr Horrocks shares her reflections on a lifetime of swimming as a personal, embodied pleasure and a metaphor for interconnectedness with nature and each other. 

Part memoir, part travel and nature writing, the Wellington-based author says her book offers new angles on how we relate to the natural world. “I’d wanted to remember why it was we swam in the first place – to remember the pleasure of immersing in an element other than air,” she says.

She hopes her words evoking the powerful pleasure of feeling connected to nature will inspire a sense of awe and awareness of why we all need to protect our natural environment at a time when many waterways are so polluted.

Although she confesses to having had few aspirations to swimming mastery, she’d always loved being in the water. She set out on a solo swimming journey, then abandoned it for a different kind of swimming altogether – one which led her to more deeply examine relationships, our ecological crisis, and responsibilities to collective care. Why do people swim, and where, how, with whom?

Where We Swim will be published in an Australian edition in July by the University of Queensland Press – the latest in a trans-Tasman publishing trend she shares with colleagues. Creative Writing lecturer at the Manawatū campus Dr Laura Jean McKay’s pandemic novel The Animals in that Country was published in Australia last year and this year won that country’s most valuable literary award. Novelist, poet and Creative Writing Professor Bryan Walpert, based at the Auckland campus, won the publisher Brio Books’ Viva La Novella 2020 award on September 16 for his novella manuscript, Late Sonata. And fellow Creative Writing staff member Dr Gigi Fenster’s psychological thriller A Good Winter, which won the 2020 Michael Gifkins Prize, will be published in Australia by Text later this year. 

Dr McKay, who will launch Where We Swim, says of Dr Horrocks’ book: “Entering the deep waters of Where We Swim is to become completely immersed in the interconnectedness of life. The words in these pages are at once intimate and all encompassing, grimly funny and heart-wrenching, human and nonhuman, global and everyday. There is a breathlessness to these meditations – just when we think we might drown in one of the stunning revelations that seed this work, Horrocks is there showing us how to swim.”

Dr Horrocks, who received a Massey University Strategic Innovation Award to help in writing the book, is also the featured writer for the March issue of the US literary journal, The Ninth Letterhttp://www.ninthletter.com/ 

She and Dr McKay are introducing a new course, Eco-fictions and Non-fictions, in Semester Two, which she says “draws directly on our thinking in this area.”

A growing interest in nonfiction writing is the inspiration for Massey hosting an international conference NonfictioNOW in Wellington in December 2021, which they hope will now also have a digtal element. http://www.nonfictionow.org/

Dr Horrocks is the author of Travelling with Augusta: 1835 and 1999 (VUP, 2003), Women Wanderers and the Writing of Mobility (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and two collections of poetry. With Cherie Lacey, she is the co-editor of Extraordinary Anywhere: Essays on Place from Aotearoa New Zealand (VUP, 2016). 

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