...I fled from my life in a hailstorm and firestorm...
Trying to Grab onto One Bar While Swinging from the Next
Motionpoems citizen journalist Amy Barshinger interviewed Paula Bohince about her poem, the film, and turning thirty…
This poem begins with an individual’s dramatic exit from a situation in which things might not have worked out as planned. Thinking about the title of your poem, do you think 30 is significant as a milestone age for taking stock of one’s life? Are society’s expectations of what one should have accomplished by this age in line with the realities of being a young adult in 2015?
Turning thirty can feel significant, perhaps unconsciously or very consciously. The fear of where one is against where one wants to go can feel acute. It’s a pity because thirty is so young. Think of the many, many choices made between the ages of twenty and thirty. It’s a dynamic decade, and all of those changes can be quite stressful, moving from one to another. I picture a trapeze, trying to grab onto one bar while swinging from the next, trying to get the timing just right. Whatever society’s expectations are for young adults in 2015, personally and professionally, I hope those folks can be kind to themselves, as patient and as loving as one would be to a friend.
Swimming is a powerful metaphor in this poem. What allure does the water hold for the protagonist of “At Thirty?”
First there’s the ritual of getting into the pool twice a day, having a place to go. The water is, in a sense, amniotic. The phrase of “baby in her crib” at the end alludes to the idea of being mothered, of being reborn, innocent and without a history. Even the “patients doing recovery exercises” represent a kind of magical renewal in that water. To float, weightless, and be held by it, without effort, feels like grace. In a sense, you’re free of a body, while the swimming is about being only a body, back and forth in a lane, without a mind, without worry.
What are your thoughts on how this poem can or should be adapted for film?
I’m looking forward seeing Thibault’s vision of the poem, and I have no preferences or expectations for how the film should be. He shared some ideas and images with me at the start, and I appreciated his idea of the speaker’s experiences being universal. What I’d like most is if someone who is struggling reads the poem or sees the film and feels less alone in that struggle, whatever it is.
Paula Bohince has seen her poems published in such places as The New Yorker, Slate, The New York Review of Books, Granta, POETRY, Shenandoah, The Irish Times. She has taught at NYU and The New School, and she also has the distinction of having been the first summer poet in residence at the University of Mississippi. In addition to being a Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts, Ms. Bohince’s other accolades include the George Bogin Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Grolier Poetry Prize, second prize in the UK National Poetry Competition, and a fellowship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She is the author of three collections of poetry. The Children and Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods were published by Sarabande. She reports that Swallows and Waves, her third collection published by Sarabande in January 2016, is comprised of sixty poems based on Japanese Edo-period artworks. She lives in Pennsylvania.
Amy Barshinger is a teacher living in York, Pennsylvania. This is her third year working as a citizen journalist for Motionpoems. Amy enjoys taking part in poetry workshops. One of her favorites met very occasionally near her home and called themselves The Red Herring Experiment. Amy is always on the lookout for new adventures. A tour of England has been her favorite journey so far. In addition to her literary interests, Amy also enjoys tea, nature and photography. She has earned degrees in education from Millersville University and Penn State.