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Unread 01-29-2021, 10:38 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Connecticut, USA
Posts: 6,978

Roger, thanks for posting "Body and Soul." I've read it several years ago and enjoyed reading it again.
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Unread 01-29-2021, 10:54 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Location: Connecticut, USA
Posts: 6,978

"The Rabbi's Son" and "The Sugar Man" Michael Cantor:
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Unread 01-29-2021, 11:34 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 7,152

My favorite sports poem of Michael Cantor's is the "The Young Men in Their Beauty," which makes me deeply uncomfortable while forcing me to re-examine sports' role in society (historical and current-day). It's on page 9 of the above-mentioned collection.

It reminds me of the following poem, especially the final stanza's numinous quality (although it's not so ominously numinous as Michael's poem). The youth and beauty and strength of individual athletes' mortal bodies fails, sooner or later, in what Michael's poem hints is a form of human sacrifice; but the traditional pageantry of the activity itself, and the interaction between the participants and the audience, testifies to something life-affirming that goes on and on, in spite of the impermanence of all.

For a Young Dancer on St. Patrick's Day
A.E. Stallings

At six, her stance is
Like a professional’s—she waits her cue
Intensely and with no expression,
The youngest in the troupe of girls
Costumed alike in skirts that flare like bells
Embroidered with designs—
Abstracted tangled animals and geometric vines—
Drawn from the Book of Kells,
Hair done up in headdresses of artificial curls
To bounce in time to lively Irish dances,

But it’s the music of a Shaker hymn
When she takes her place
Alone on the plywood stage, candescent with such fierce
And concentrated joy
As no smile will pierce
And no trivial laughter can alloy,
Each swift and nimble limb
Inhabiting its quickness without haste,
As if she had only herself to please.
All gazes

Fix on her, not because,
Or not only because, she is a lovely, solemn elf,
Not that her eyes
Are just the shade of blue
Patterned on antique Delft
Or that cliché of cloudless skies
(Though bored through with the blackness of unfathomable Space),
And it is not her fearsome self-possession
Around her, tightly furled,

Rather the possession of her self
By a vaster power
Whose presence in this low room till this hour
Had been unknown to us
And momently amazes,
As the wide wind that breathes upon the world
Enlists the tossing of high-masted trees,
The bowing of the grass,
The shiver of a roadside flower,
So we may see it pass.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 01-30-2021 at 12:27 AM.
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Unread 01-30-2021, 05:05 AM
E. Shaun Russell E. Shaun Russell is offline
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Columbus, OH
Posts: 2,053

The Olympic Girl
John Betjeman

The sort of girl I like to see
Smiles down from her great height at me.
She stands in strong, athletic pose
And wrinkles her retroussй nose.
Is it distaste that makes her frown,
So furious and freckled, down
On an unhealthy worm like me?
Or am I what she likes to see?
I do not know, though much I care,
xxxxxxxx.....would I were
(Forgive me, shade of Rupert Brooke)
An object fit to claim her look.
Oh! would I were her racket press'd
With hard excitement to her breast
And swished into the sunlit air
Arm-high above her tousled hair,
And banged against the bounding ball
"Oh! Plung!" my tauten'd strings would call,
"Oh! Plung! my darling, break my strings
For you I will do brilliant things."
And when the match is over, I
Would flop beside you, hear you sigh;
And then with what supreme caress,
You'd tuck me up into my press.
Fair tigress of the tennis courts,
So short in sleeve and strong in shorts,
Little, alas, to you I mean,
For I am bald and old and green.

What has always tickled me about this poem is that it imagines the perspective of a tennis ball and tennis racket. Betjeman was successful in his day, but he's largely forgotten (save for "Slough") which is sad. Much of his work is delightful.
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Unread 01-30-2021, 05:24 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Staffordshire, England
Posts: 4,043

And, of course, there's this. More swooning at tennis girls from Betjeman: "How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won". Lovely stuff.

A Subaltern's Love Song

Miss J.Hunter Dunn, Miss J.Hunter Dunn,
Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament - you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,
The warm-handled racket is back in its press,
But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.

Her father's euonymus shines as we walk,
And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six-o'clock news and a lime-juice and gin.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
As I struggle with double-end evening tie,
For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.

On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,
And westering, questioning settles the sun,
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Hillman is waiting, the light's in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing's the light on your hair.

By roads "not adopted", by woodlanded ways,
She drove to the club in the late summer haze,
Into nine-o'clock Camberley, heavy with bells
And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,
Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band!
Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl's hand!

Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,
Above us the intimate roof of the car,
And here on my right is the girl of my choice,
With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,
And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.
We sat in the car park till twenty to one
And now I'm engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

Last edited by Mark McDonnell; 01-30-2021 at 05:54 AM.
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Unread 01-30-2021, 05:43 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Staffordshire, England
Posts: 4,043

I like this by Simon Armitage. I think it captures the beautiful satisfaction of catching a cricket ball as it flies through the air at full speed very well. The improbability of it. Catching or thwacking the cricket ball, kicking the football with the required accuracy, basically not disgracing myself, was always enough for me.

The Catch.

the long, smouldering
afternoon. It is

this moment
when the ball scoots
off the edge

of the bat; upwards,
backwards, falling

beyond him
yet he reaches
and picks it

of its loop

an apple
from a branch,
the first of the season.

Last edited by Mark McDonnell; 01-30-2021 at 11:11 AM.
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Unread 01-30-2021, 05:52 AM
Bill Carpenter Bill Carpenter is offline
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Minneapolis
Posts: 2,373

Thanks for starting this, Julie. Michael Cantor's "The Man Who Caught The Pass" is at Martin's link: Life in Second Circle excerpts in Google books

Here is another Cantor sports poem from Elysian Fields Quarterly:

An Octina for Wally Pipp

By Michael Cantor

This starts with New York Yankee Wally Pipp,
who loved each moment of each baseball game—
the grass and sweat, tobacco juice, the pitch,
the spirits that meant Wally came to play
wherever fist hit glove and ball met bat.
Broad-shouldered, tall, his voice a manly bass,
he wooed true fans from Beantown to St. Lou',
and thrilled to hear the crowd's ecstatic bawl

exploding as the umpire called, "PLAY BALL!"
But then a migraine's grip felled Wally Pipp
and Coach told him, No need to stew. In lieu
of you that college kid can start a game
or two. We'll test the rookie at first base;
see how he does against a big league pitch.
The fact is that he ain't no acrobat,
and talks just like he's in some Broadway play—

maybe not the guy you want to play
when the pennant hangs on every ball
but, hey, they say he swings a nasty bat.
The kid dug in—he outweighed Wally Pipp!—
bestrode the plate, admired a chest-high pitch,
then rocked his hips, uncocked thick wrists—HALLOO!—
a rocket ship roared wide of second base,
and skied to play a slap-bang crashing game

of tag with empty bleacher seats. The game
became the kid's—he handled every play
at first as if he'd always owned the base,
each swing just tore the cover off the ball,
and fans began to scream his name, Big Lou!!
He had the legs, ran bases like a big-assed bat
from second basemen's hell, crushed every pitch—
a horsehide whip, a battleship, a pip!

And that was all she wrote for Wally Pipp,
who didn't start another Yankee game.
He shared the bench with washed-up vets whose pitch
to him each day—that kid needs dirty play;
piss in his shoes and hat, chop up his bat
for firewood—was the bitter rant of base
old men who'd plot a rookie's Waterloo:
we'll take him out and get him drunk and ball

some five buck whore—for five bucks more she'll bawl
to all that it was rape—but Wally Pipp
already knew that greatness lived in Lou
and wouldn't play that sick old-timer's game.
He praised the man who took away his base
and led the cheers for him to slug each pitch,
while tycoons, heartless as a cork-plugged bat,
had Wally quickly sold away, to play

for Cinci'—small-town Cinci'—where the play-
by-play announcers peddle hay; and ball-
field summer heat can scorch a wooden bat;
and that became the end of Wally Pipp.
He left to run a bar and grill; would pitch
in nights, and lift a few and talk of Lou:
how sure it was that he would make the Base-
ball Hall of Fame, an All-Star of the game,

the Iron Horse, who never missed a game
in fourteen years. Bad calls can ruin the play
of life, and Wally found he was off base
once more: he thought some day they'd name a ball-
park after Lou—not a disease—then Lou
fell ill. The Scoreboard marked his last at bat.
When millions mourned him on the final pitch,
the saddest man of all was Wally Pipp.

At every New York game the ghost of Lou
is said to grab a bat and try to play;
smash back a pitch, bring home the men on base,
for baseball fellowship—and Wally Pipp.

Last edited by Bill Carpenter; 01-30-2021 at 05:55 AM.
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Unread 01-30-2021, 06:04 AM
Joe Crocker Joe Crocker is offline
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: York
Posts: 142

Originally Posted by Roger Slater View Post
Body and Soul, by BH Fairchild, is the best sports poem I can think of.
I know nothing about baseball and have never heard of Mickey Mantle. But wow, there is so much in that poem. Thank you for pitching it Roger.
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Unread 01-30-2021, 08:44 AM
Joe Crocker Joe Crocker is offline
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: York
Posts: 142

Originally Posted by E. Shaun Russell View Post
The Olympic Girl
John Betjeman

. Betjeman was successful in his day, but he's largely forgotten (save for "Slough") which is sad. Much of his work is delightful.
Not, I think, forgotten. Still, indeed, loved. He was poet laureate until his death in 1984. Did you ever hear him read to the accompaniment of Jim Parker's arrangements. Definitely delightful.
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Unread 01-30-2021, 09:35 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 7,152

by Linda Pastan

When you tried to tell me
baseball was a metaphor

for life: the long, dusty travail
around the bases, for instance,

to try to go home again;
the Sacrifice for which you win

approval but not applause;
the way the light closes down

in the last days of the season—
I didn't believe you.

It's just a way of passing
the time, I said.

And you said: that's it.

(from An Early Afterlife)
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