I was off from work on Friday and as it was a nice, sunny day, I decided to drive to Niantic, a small town on the Connecticut shoreline. My thought to go to Niantic was not a random act to visit the town for some sightseeing, no, I was on a mission, and a very pleasant one, too, I might add. I wanted to go to The Book Barn, which is one of the greatest booksellers of used books in New England. It is said that they have more than 350,000 books on their premises; at the ‘barn’, which is located in the north end of Niantic, there are actually several buildings with books, while there is also a shop in the downtown area.
The bookseller has books on all kinds of subjects and topics, and of course I started by having a look among the sport books if there was anything on rowing this time (during several previous visits I have found rowing books). But, no, not this time. Well, that is, I had the few ones I found on the shelves. So, I browsed around in the other buildings and houses, and to my surprise when I was eyeing through the poetry section, I found a ‘rowing book’, that is, an entire book with rowing poems, Upon the River by Holly Stone.
Stone self-published a first edition of the book in 1996. A second edition, hardcover, came out in 1997, which I found at the Book Barn, and for which I paid $5. Whether it is the Preface, Epilogue, any of the close to thirty poems, or the short essay about rivers, or the text that explains the rowing stroke, all the texts are imbued with her love for rowing and being out on the river: “Row upon me with love / and I will exhilarate you /Whether or not your timing is comical!” (From “Novice Women Rowing Upon The River”).
I must say that I appreciate Stone’s attempt to raise the awareness of rowing as a sport, but I believe that her enthusiasm in doing so is higher than the poems’ literary quality. This being said, I would like to paraphrase, just like Tim Koch did the other day, Dr. Johnson who said it’s not that it’s done well, but that it’s done at all. And after all, that is far more important, I think.