If you're watching Wimbledon this year, you've surely heard about the "poetry" of a Roger Federer winner or a Serena Williams blast. But this year's tournament has also led to some poetry in the literary sense of the word. It's come from one officially sanctioned source, and another, well, highly unusual one.
I wrote a few weeks back about Matt Harvey, Wimbledon's first "Poet in Residence," whose job it is to try capture the drama and tradition of England's great tennis event in verse. Harvey has been diligently carrying out the duties of his rather choice position on the so-called Wimblewords portion of the tournament's website.
So far, Harvey has been focused on predictable topics. On Wednesday, he mused about Wimbledon's famous grass courts in a poem called "more than a lawn."
it's a lawn - just a lawn
but it's more than a lawn
it's a dance floor, a war zone, a platform, a stage
showcase, coliseum, a ring, a fight cage
big top, debating hall, combat arena
goldfish bowl, cauldron, a cliche convener
petri dish, pressure cooker, drama provider
physics laboratory, small hadron collider
The poem includes an endearing shout-out to Wimbledon's head groundskeeper.
just a lawn, made of grass, but a lawn that's possessed
of a singular, unparalleled beauty
and Eddie Seaward expects
every blade of grass to do its duty
Earlier in the week, Harvey cleverly addressed England's on and off love affair with Andy Murray in the poem "one of ours":
if ever he's brattish
or brutish or skittish
but if he looks fittish
and his form is hottish
I think Harvey is doing a fine job, but I was more impressed with the remarkable, spontaneous poetry born out of the liveblogging of Guardian editor Xan Brooks this past Wednesday. Given the job of watching the day's matches and tossing a few e-crumbs to television-deprived tennis fans, Brooks found himself faced with covering the marathon contest between American John Isner and France's Nicolas Mahut. The stunning match--which lasted three days and had a fifth set final score of 70- 68--clearly wore Brooks down. By late Wednesday, he was writing like a reincarnation of Jorge Luis Borges as sportswriter.
The website Deadspin compiled some of the highlights. I've excerpted Brooks' most poetic moments:
4:05 Isner and Mahut are dying a thousand deaths out there on Court 18 ... Soon they will sprout beards and their hair will grow down their backs, and their tennis whites will yellow and then rot off their bodies. And still they will stand out there on Court 18, belting aces and listening as the umpire calls the score. Finally, I suppose, one of them will die.
5:05 On Court 18 a match is not won and lost; it is just played out infinitely, deeper and deeper into a fifth and final set as the numbers rack up and the terrain turns uncharted. Under the feet of John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, the grass is growing. Before long they will be playing in a jungle and when they sit down at the change of ends, a crocodile will come to menace them.
5:23 I've been chuckling over the nightmarish experience of Isner and Mahut, little realising that it has implications for the rest of us as well. We are all involved -- going round and round, round and round.
6.25 I'm wondering if maybe an angel will come and set them free. Is this too much to ask? Just one slender angel, with white wings and a wise smile, to tell them that's it's all right, they have suffered enough and that they are now being recalled. The angel could hug them and kiss their brows and invite them to lay their rackets gently on the grass. And then they could all ascend to heaven together. John Isner, Nicolas Mahut and the kind angel that saved them.
Wimbledon should consider adding a second poet in residence position for Brooks (and I mean that sincerely). They could put him up somewhere high in the grandstand. You know, where the crocodiles will not come to menace him.