Poetry Month is circling the drain, almost gone, so I figured I ought to get busy. My stock in trade is sportswriting—pretty low-brow stuff compared to most composition, especially poetry—but who doesn’t aspire to something loftier, to be more than just one of those who only knows prose?
A motivation was the recent essay by Garrison Keillor, the grand humorist who created radio’s delightful Prairie Home Companion. Though “we all suffered under English teachers who forced us to pretend to be sensitive and sigh with appreciation” over poetic metaphors and similes, Keillor wrote, and though “many police departments now use Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ instead of pepper spray,” he offered encouragement.
“You can do it,” he coaxed. Write poetry.
So I Googled “how to write a poem” and came across some tips (have a goal, avoid sentimentality, use images, rhyme with extreme caution) and stumbled onto some examples from the only poet I recall ever really understanding, sly Ogden Nash, whose piece entitled “Fleas” goes:
I can’t do that. But I was heartened by the knowledge that Nash was a baseball fan. In 1949, he published a poem in Sport Magazine that paid tribute to the sport’s great players in alphabetical order, from A to Z, including these nifty lines:
C is for Cobb, Who grew spikes and not corn. And made all the basemen Wish they weren’t born.
D is for Dean, The grammatical Diz. When they asked, Who’s the tops? Said correctly, I is.
E is for Evers, His jaw in advance; Never afraid To Tinker with Chance.
F is for Fordham. And Frankie and Frisch; I wish he were back With the Giants, I wish.
The Garrison Keillor piece suggested attempting a poem “for someone you dearly love,” but that seems risky for an amateur. I wouldn’t want to scare her off after all these years. Better, too, I decided, to avoid puppies, grandparents, young lovers and other clichés. Rather, just start by attempting verse mixed with familiar sport. Maybe with a nod to Joe Hardy on an old theme:
There once was a team from the Bronx
Known for its homers, big bonks.
Its demise a temptation
That was shared ‘round the nation,
But a Faustian bargain? No thonx.
Or perhaps something fit for playoff time in winter sports leagues:
A little haiku
To describe hockey action.
Skate, shove, punch, punch, punch.
Or an observation about an old basketball star’s new job:
For years was stewing
Yearning to be a coach.
His old school has hired him
(Eventually to fire him)
That’s generally the sports approach.
Call this one “ESPN:”
Turned on the TV,
Sat in the lounger,
Heard all the quacking, pre-game.
What about real insight?
Beyond the sound bites,
Why’s commentary sound so lame?
The heads are talking,
Time to grab the ol’ remote.
Only a din glutton
Eschews the mute button.
It’s for the players to showboat.
Well, I tried. Good enough for pepper spray, at least?
I’ve showed so little poetic muscle
The highest compliment I could get
Would be backhanded.
“Way to hustle.”
Next April, maybe.