In a strange marriage of poetry and sports, Wimbledon has appointed a "Championships Poet" to help celebrate the world's most prestigious tennis event. Matt Harvey, a British poet, received the honor, and he will essentially serve as tennis' poet laureate for the tournament, writing a poem a day that captures the drama taking place on the famed grass courts.
Harvey, a lifelong tennis fan, regularly appears on BBC radio to share his poetry. His work is light and funny, so he might be able to pull off the tough task of writing occasional poems about sports (I'm cringing just thinking about it). In a statement he gave for the Wimbledon press release, he acknowledged being a bit worried:
"Quite simply I'm delighted, with a little bit of healthy anxiety thrown in. It's an honour, and I'm acutely conscious it's the only time I'll come first in anything at Wimbledon, unless you count the queue for strawberries."
Throughout the competition, Harvey's poems will be available online through twitter, a blog and audio podcasts. And he'll give a few live performances for the people lining up to enter the All England Club. In an introductory podcast (available here), Harvey took a tour of the grounds and shared his memories of the event. He discussed how much he's looking forward to seeing what goes on behind the scenes:
"the ball boys, the umpires, the gardens, the Boston ivy growing over all the buildings, the line judges' contact lenses ... I'm the only person there in a team of hundreds of people, Wimble-folk, who's actually paid just to be there, to soak up the atmosphere and try to find the words to describe it."
Harvey also notes that he's already decided that "Federer rhymes with et cetera," which will no doubt come in handy. Here is his first Wimbledon-related effort, a fast-moving (and rhyming!) poem entitled "The Grandest of Slams,"
Excuse me. I'm sorry. I speak as an Englishman
For the game of lawn tennis there's no better symbol than
The place where the game's flame was sparked and then kindled in
Where so many spines have sat straight and then tingled in
Where strawberries and cream have traditionally been sampled in
Kids' eyes have lit up and their cheeks have been dimpled in
Where tough tennis cookies have cracked and then crumbled in
Top seeds have stumbled, have tumbled, been humbled in
Where home-grown heroes' hopes have swelled up and then
The Grand Slams' best of breed, it's the whizz it's the biz
The temple where physics expresses its fizz
There's one word for tennis and that one word is
Wimbledon starts on June 21. You can follow Harvey, throughout the tournament at The Poetry Trust, here.