Unless stated otherwise, all poetry on Swimming in Lines of Haiku is Copyright Kirsten Cliff and may not be reprinted in any form without written permission from the author. kirsten(DOT)cliff(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Poem & Book Give-Away for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

A few years ago I had the opportunity, as a freelance writer, to meet a group of truly inspirational women. I not only interviewed Boobops, the Bay of Plenty Women’s Dragon Boat Team, but also took up the opportunity to paddle alongside them at a training session on Tauranga Harbour.

I discovered that these women were friendly, fit and fierce competitors. They were women on a mission – to get the sport of dragon boat racing up and running in the Bay. Their uniqueness stemmed from being survivors of breast cancer.

Boobops, like similar dragon boat teams around the world, began as a way of moving on after breast cancer; building strength in mind, body and spirit. The camaraderie and fitness that Boobops members experience is something special, but Liz Sinclair, founding member of Boobops says, “Competing is important too. We all need something to strive for.”

Every year Boobops host a regatta in Tauranga where breast cancer survivor teams from around New Zealand compete against corporate and family teams. A highlight of this regatta is the flower ceremony, which commemorates all women who have lost their fight against breast cancer.

At the end of the last breast cancer survivors’ race, the teams join together on the water while a reading is performed. The survivors then cast their flowers onto the water during the one-minute silence that follows. Long-time Boobops member, Sue Batty, says, “It’s a way of remembering friends who can’t be with us.”

I'm honoured to have paddled alongside these survivors, and share my poem as a tribute to all those who have been touched by breast cancer.

Paddling the Dragon Boat

We paddle across Tauranga harbour
Twelve women in a dragon boat,
Early on Saturday morning
The summer sun climbing high,

Twelve women in a dragon boat
Zipped tight into life jackets,
The summer sun climbing high
Taste of salt water on my lips,

Zipped tight into life jackets
Grip the paddle with two hands,
Taste of salt water on my lips
Our coach calls out the rhythm,

Grip the paddle with two hands
We quicken the stroke pace,
Our coach calls out the rhythm
My muscles begin to ache, as

We quicken the stroke pace
Early on Saturday morning,
My muscles begin to ache, as
We paddle across Tauranga harbour.

Copyright © 2010 Kirsten Cliff

I wrote today's post as part of the WOW-Women on Writing Blanket Tour for Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey by Diana M. Raab, MFA, RN. The book includes Diana's experiences, reflections, poetry and journal entries, in addition to writing prompts for readers to express their own personal stories. A survivor of both breast cancer and multiple myeloma, Raab views journaling to be like a daily vitamin--in that it heals, detoxifies and is essential for optimal health.

Diana, the author of eight books, spent 25 years as a medical and self-help writer before turning to poetry and memoir. She teaches creative journaling and memoir in UCLA Extension Writers' Program.

If you comment on today's post you'll be entered to win a copy of Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey. To read Diana's post about breast cancer and a list of other blogs participating in Diana's Blanket Tour visit The Muffin.


  1. Lovely poem, Kirsten. Is there a special name for that form?

    I had the opportunity to paddle with Wasabi Team SOAR, one of two local dragonboat teams, a few years ago, and was also struck by the camaraderie and strength of all the women. It was a truly inspiring experience, and had I not discovered the cancer survivors' writing group around the same time, perhaps I would still be paddling now. I do have it on my list of activities I might try again someday.

  2. Hi there, Cara.
    The poem is a pantoum. My only attempt at one thus far. It's a beautiful form.
    Cool that you had a go at paddling! They certainly have some fun out there.
    Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog :)

  3. There is a dragon boat team in Cape Town too. As a breast cancer survivor, I can only imagine how hard it must be at first. To paddle against a mastectomy scar. I carry hundreds of litres of grey water around the garden, but competing is not for me. I prefer to play with words. Next week's post will have a little bit of Dannevirke and my father in it.

  4. Hello there!
    I definitely prefer word play too. But I do love the water.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog :)