Motion: American Sports Poems


Sports have long served as inspiration for poetry-the ancient Greeks wrote odes in praise of their athletes-so it is little surprise that in a culture as obsessed with athletes as our own sports would exert an influence on contemporary poets. Motion: American Sports Poems rescues sports from our society's focus on superstars, multimillion-dollar contracts, and gold medals to capture champions and losers, competitors and spectators in moments that are anything but fleeting.

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Sports have long served as inspiration for poetry-the ancient Greeks wrote odes in praise of their athletes-so it is little surprise that in a culture as obsessed with athletes as our own sports would exert an influence on contemporary poets. Motion: American Sports Poems rescues sports from our society's focus on superstars, multimillion-dollar contracts, and gold medals to capture champions and losers, competitors and spectators in moments that are anything but fleeting.

As Noah Blaustein points out in his preface, among the many parallels made between sports and poetry is the idea of transcendence. Forged from the most basic elements of sport-energy, movement, and rhythm-the poems in this anthology reflect something universal: sport as metaphor, sport as struggle, sport as the battleground for mythic figures and local heroes.
The often celebrated sports-baseball, boxing, football, and basketball-are here along with unexpected pastimes like surfing, skateboarding, tennis, soccer, karate, rock climbing, bowling, and curling. Young and old, black and white, male and female, the poets in this anthology celebrate everyone who has come together in the shimmy and shake and sweat of sport.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From Randall Jarrell's matter-of-fact elegy "Say Goodbye to Big Daddy" ("who found football easy enough") to Catherine Bowman's "My Knicks Are Going to Beat Your Spurs NBA Souvenir Bracelet 1999 For My Long Distance Love," Motion: American Sports Poems collects recent and semi-recent versifications of our national pastimes. Editor and poet Noah Blaustein (who includes his "Water & Light": "It was too soon/ To think of her passing,/ So I passed/ Evenings in the water") gathers a mostly masculine cheering section of 100 poets James Tate, James Wright, James Haug, James McKean and James Galvin among them. ( Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The preface states that this collection is "a celebration of the history, development and diversity of sports and poetry...the idea of rising above some invisible boundary on the court as well as the page." Sports included are the "legitimate" sports like baseball and basketball as well as fly-fishing, rock climbing and running. But the poems are about much more than the pure mechanics of sports. Take Elizabeth Alexander's tribute to Mohammed Ali, "Narrative Ali." She writes the poem in 12 rounds, each describing a different phase in Ali's growing consciousness of racism and his move toward Islam. In section 4, the poet has him say: "Bottom line: Olympic gold/ can't buy a black man/ a Louisville hamburger/ in nineteen-sixty." Many well-known poets are represented. James Dickey writes a heartfelt tribute to Vince Lombardi. Ferlinghetti's "Baseball Canto" celebrates the ethnic diversity of the sport. Thom Gunn describes a skateboarder: "...Emblem of fashion./wearing dirty white/ in dishevelment as delicate/ as the falling draperies/ on a dandyish/ Renaissance saint." Some poets, like Gunn, elevate sports to an art form, even a spiritual experience, while others like David Hayward see only exploitation. In Hayward's poem on horse racing, he describes "the little gussied-up bodies" and the hopes of men down on their luck. Other poets play with line and form to describe the uniqueness of the sport, as in Maxine Kumin's "400 Meter Freestyle," written in one long line, then in one word, vertically moving to the next long line, in imitation of the diving start or maybe the breath between strokes. Even Marianne Moore is here, comparing baseball and writing: "You can never tellwith either/ how it will go/ or what you will do." This would be an excellent collection to introduce high school students to high quality poetry. Perhaps even some athletes who would turn their backs on poetry might listen if these were read aloud. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Univ. of Iowa Press, 250p. index., $15.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Sue E. Budin; YA Libn., Ann Arbor P.L., Ann Arbor, MI , September 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 5)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780877457558
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 274
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreward by John Edgar Wideman Preface

Diane Ackerman, Pumping Iron
Kim Addonizio, Event
Kim Addonizio, Late Round
Elizabeth Alexander, Narrative: Ali
Sherman Alexie, Penance
Sherman Alexie, Why We Play Basketball
Agha Shahid Ali , The Jogger on Riverside Drive, 5:00 a.m.
Sam Allen, To Satch
Craig Arnold, Locker Room Etiquette
George Barlow, A Dream of the Ring: The Great Jack Johnson
Dorothy Barresi, Called Up: Tinker to Evers to Chance
Dorothy Barresi, Lifting
Marvin Bell, Slow
Marvin Bell, What They Do to You in Distant Places
Elizabeth Bishop, The Fish
Noah Blaustein, Water & Light
Kendra Borgmann, Rodeo Tangent
Kevin Bowen, Playing Basketball with the Viet Cong
Catherine Bowman, Dove at Sundown
Catherine Bowman, My Knicks Are Going to Beat Your Spurs—NBA Souvenir Bracelet 1999 for my Long Distance Love
Ralph Burns, Fishing in Winter
Ralph Burns, Memory
Douglas Carlson, Russ Joy Little League
Hayden Carruth, Capper Kaplinski at the North Side Cue Club
Raymond Carver, The Catch
Olena Kalytiak Davis, Moorer Denies Holyfield in Twelve
Mike Delp, Fishing the Dream
James Dickey, For the Death of Vince Lombardi
Norman Dubie, The Death of the Race Car Driver
Stephen Dunn, Competition
Stephen Dunn, Criminal
Stephen Dunn, Day and Night Handball
Cornelius Eady, Jack Johnson Does the Eagle Rock
John Engels, Bullhead
Martín Espada, The Man Who Beat Hemingway
David Allan Evans, Pole Vaulter
David Allan Evans, Song of Racquetball
B. H. Fairchild, Body and Soul
B. H. Fairchild, Old Men Playing Basketball
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Baseball Canto
Gary Fincke, Class A, Salem, the Rookie League
Robert Francis, Pitcher
Robert Francis, The Rock Climbers
Robert Francis, Two Wrestlers
Carol Frost, Custom
Carol Frost, To Kill a Deer
Brendan Galvin, The Knot Hole Gang
Brendan Galvin, Running
James Galvin, Shadow-Casting
Gary Gildner, 4th Base
Louise Glück, The Racer’s Widow
Linda Gregerson, Line Drive Caught by the Grace of God
Thom Gun, Skateboard
Donald Hall, The Fifth Inning
Donald Hall, The Eighth Inning
Forrest Hamer, Allegiance
Michael S. Harper, Archives
Michael S. Harper, Homage to the Brown Bomber
Michael S. Harper, Makin’ Jump Shots
Jeffrey Harrison, Hitting Golfballs off the Bluff
James Haug, Pool Is a Godless Sport
Robery Hayden, The Diver
David Hayward, To the Man Saying “Come on Seis” at Hollywood Park
William Heyen, Mantle
William Heyen, The Stadium
Frank Higgins, Tennis in the City
Brenda Hillman, The Y
David Hilton, I Try to Turn in My Jock
Edward Hirsch, Fast Break
Jonathan Holden, How to Play Night Baseball
Jonathan Holden, A Poem of Ed “Whitey” Ford
Paul Hoover, Baseball
Richard Hugo, From Altitude, the Diamonds
Richard Hugo, Letter to Mantsch from Havre
Richard Hugo, Missoula Softball Tournament
David Ignatow, The Boxing Match

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