From the early Hellenic period, sports poetry has held fast. Pindar wrote many Epinicion, or triumphal odes, to honor Olympic athletes and victors. These complex structured odes were usually sung in a parade-type procession when the winner traveled back to his home town.
Centuries have passed and the excitement of sport games has continued, firmly embedded in every culture. Poets have sought out sports to catch a glimpse of the spirit of the game and its proud athletes.
Here’s an example of sports poetry; a glimpse of ferocity, youth, and football games, “A Mad Fight Song for William S. Carpenter, 1966”:
Varus, varus, gib mir meine Legionen wieder
Quick on my feet in those Novembers of my loneliness,
I tossed a short pass,
Almost the instant I got the ball, right over the head
Of Barrel Terry before he knocked me cold.
When I woke, I found myself crying out
Latin conjugations, and the new snow falling
At the edge of a green field.
Lemoyne Crone had caught the pass, while I lay
Unconscious and raging
Alone with the fire ghost of Catullus, the contemptuous graces tossing
Garlands and hendecasyllabics over the head
Of Cornelius Nepos the mastodon,
The huge volume.
At the edges of Southeast Asia this afternoon
The quarterbacks and the lines are beginning to fall,
A spring snow,
And terrified young men
Quick on their feet
Lob one another’s skulls across
Wings of strange birds that are burning
—by James Wright
Write a poem about your favorite sports team or player. For an added challenge, try writing your poem in the ode form of Epinicia like Pindar. Talk about the skill, the athleticism, the excitement, colors, sounds, and most of all… the victory!
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s a poem pieced word by magnetic word from Jen:
My symphony swims
the delirious blue wind
in a peach and honey smeared sky
like a sea whispering dreams
of sweet rose forest springs
we will sing the shadows away
Photo by Pai Shih. Creative Commons via Flickr.
How to Write a Poem uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.
“How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”
—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland