Monday, June 21, 2010

The Poetics of Wimbledon

As poetic inspiration goes, sport may not seem like a much of a muse. Certainly, it isn't one of the traditional Greek ones, but sports and poetry have been coming together for quite some time. From Ernest Thayer's comical baseball classic, "Casey at the Bat" to A.E. Housman's moving "To an Athlete Dying Young" and the more recent, and racy, hockey poetry by Canadian Billeh Nickerson ("Why I love Wayne Gretzky - An Erotic Fantasy" is especially naughty while remaining PG), sporty poetry is an under-covered genre.

That may all change though, because for the first time ever, Wimbledon - the Grand Slam of grand slams - has appointed a poet laureate. Englishman Matt Harvey won the position and will be writing a poem a day for the entirety of the two-week tennis tournament, which began today. The poems are being published on the Wimbledon website under the heading Wimblewords and, if the first two are any indication, this will be a great fortnight for tennis fans and poetry lovers alike, even if some of the pieces get a little silly (a poem a day for two weeks is a tall order when you have millions of people watching you).

You can actually listen to Harvey perform his first poem, "The Grandest of Slams" (played over a lovely little montage of Wimbledon moments), which he wrote in the lead-up to the tournament.

Image shown Matt Harvey at Wimbledon (from

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