Sunday, September 1, 2013

September 2013 Poetry Challenge: Sports Poem

The first sports poetry may have been the odes Pindar (c. 520-440 B.C.E.) wrote in praise of Olympic athletes in ancient Greece.

Finishing Line Press recently published White Fire, a chapbook of poetry by Mardelle Fortier honoring Olympic Skaters. In the poem from that book reproduced below, note how Fortier makes use of the skater’s costume and themes from the music as well as the skater’s movements. All of these, of course, are part of the performance of a figure skater.

Brian Boitano  
            Skating to “Phantom of the Opera”

Is he real, this specter that haunts
the arena, swirls in a cape
to yearning lyrics, dissolves
into shadows then flies with an elegant
sweep of a hand, dances
through life to death and back,
makes us shiver and gives us
visions like silver mirrored roses,
spins like something
beyond earth, beyond night
and all its wraith-like lights?

Is he a dream, this skater that lurks
and prowls, holding each pining
heart in his palm, landing softly as
pretended candle flames,
soaring to the ceiling of secrets?
He steps deftly from shadow to shadow
like an elusive moonlit ghost,
races past spotlights
as though they could break like bubbles,
obsessively spins into a grey web,
follows the mystical
sheen of ice with its hidden maps,
loving the organ music,
loving each note to death.

~ Mardelle Fortier

From White Light: For Olympic Skaters (Finishing Line Press, 2013), p. 13. Used by permission of the author. You can purchase White Fire for $12 plus shipping and handling, at  

Mardelle Fortier, who teaches creative writing and composition at Benedictine University and College of DuPage, is a past president of the Illinois State Poetry Society. She is editor of DuPage Valley Review at Benedictine University. Fortier has won numerous awards for her poetry, and has been published in journals such as Chicago Literary Review, Rambunctious Review, and Piedmont Literary Review.

Other Sports Poetry

“Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer is probably the favorite sports poems among Americans.  Unlike Fortier’s lyrical free verse, Thayer’s poem is a rhymed, metered narrative. You can read it at or enjoy James Earl Jones’ dramatic  reading at

Another famous baseball poem is Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s "Baseball Canto." It is printed at Or you can hear it read aloud at (Click on the black and white photo).

A dozen years ago, I went to Mexico to meet my new grandson who was born there. I wrote the following poem after watching volleyball played on white sand beach of the Caribbean at Playa del Carmen.

Beach Volleyball

Like Caribbean waves, his body is all motion.
His feet are never still; his hands shift, stretch
for the ball coming over the net. His feet propel
him into air. He slaps the ball with open hand,
waits for it to come steaming back into his court.
Beads of sweat roll and bounce from his browned skin
to white sand. His muscles glisten. Diving low
for the spiked orb, he sprawls, rises powdered with sand.
He hasn’t yet learned life isn’t winning or losing,
but volleys with sudden unexpected turns he can’t control. 
It sometimes soars, sometimes bounces,
sometimes shatters hours or years into grains of sand.

~ Wilda Morris

“Beach Volleyball” was first published by Highland Park Poetry.

More Sports Poetry on the Internet: 

See a discussion of sports poems (beginning with comments on ancient Greek) and a list of some more contemporary examples at vhp/prmMID/5875. In July, 2010, on the eve of the World Cup finals, Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate of Great Britain, gathered together a collection of sports poetry for The Guardian. You can find poems at

The Challenge for September:

Which sports interest you? Football? Golf? Competitive swimming? Soccer? Basketball? Track and field? Or maybe you don’t like sports and want to put your reasons into poetry. Maybe you want to brag about your success on the field—or lament a loss. Maybe you are tuned into TV sports, or perhaps you prefer to be out under the lights on Friday night at the local high school stadium. Perhaps you want to write about a moment in sports history, or your sports hero.

Your poem should be about a competitive sport or sports figure, whether amateur or professional. The sport can be played in a stadium, park, backyard, or city street; by children, youth, adults,or an intergenerational group. You may submit free verse poem or a rhymed and metered poem. If you use a form, please specify what form you are using. If you write about sports or a sporting event which an everyday North American might not be familiar with, please send a brief explanation with your poem.Poems of 40 lines or fewer are preferred.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send your poem to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for [at] and a . for [dot]. Be sure to provide your e-mail address. Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name, exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win, at the end of the poem. Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment. Please put your poem on the left margin; do not indent the poem or center it on the page. 

Submit no more than one poem. Please include a brief bio which could be used if you are a winner.

© Wilda Morris