Saturday, July 28, 2012

Prompt #111 – Sports Poems

Last night, I stayed up until almost midnight and watched the London Olympics' amazing opening ceremonies (see video at end of post). This morning, I woke thinking that it might be interesting to write about sports this week. Of course, not everyone is sports-minded (myself included), but sports play an important role in cultures throughout the world, so why not take up the "torch" and write about them?

When the Olympics began in ancient Greece, poetry was part of the “package.” Poets wrote works in praise of athletic champions, and often recited poems to large Olympic Game crowds. At those early Games, some of the athletes hired the best and most popular poets of the day to write victory odes, and poets of every stripe erected stalls or stood on “soapboxes” to recite their poems. The venue couldn’t have been better for them – imagine a poetry reading with an audience of thousands. However, in c. 388 BC, the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse brought actors to the Games to recite his poetry, and his poems weren’t well-received. In fact, the crowd beat him up and destroyed his tent. 

Possibly the most famous sports poem is "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Lawrence Thayer.
Another famous baseball poem is  "Baseball and Writing" by Marianne Moore. 

Other examples:

While baseball poems are arguably more abundant than other sports poems, the challenge this week is to choose a sport (any sport) and write a poem about it. 
  1. The sport you choose may be one you enjoy or one you don’t like at all. 
  2. You may use a sport as an extended metaphor in your poem (How Dieting Is a Spectator Sport). 
  3. You may write about a sport in which you’ve participated, or you may write about a sport in which you would like to participate. 
  4. You may write about your significant other’s obsession with golf (or football, or soccer, or baseball, or basketball), or you may write about your significant other’s annoying habit of watching a particular sport on TV. 
  5. Another possibility is to write a poem about the Olympics (ancient, modern, or both). 
  6. If you’ve never played sports and don’t care for sports at all, write a poem about that. 
  7. You might think about sports heroes you consider worthy of praise and write about one of them. 
  8. You might even take a humorous approach and write a funny sports poem. 
  9. You might write a poem in which you compare a particular sport to poetry. 
  10. Or, you might reflect on the ways in which trying to win poetry competitions is like trying to win sports competitions. 
  11. Write a poem in which you list the rules for your own "Poetry Olympics." 
  12. Write a poem in which you imagine the world without a single sport.
Have fun with this, and keep these sports synonyms in mind: recreational activity, entertainment, action, amusement, athletics, exercise, frolic, fun, fun and games, gaiety, physical activity, and play.

Click here to read an excellent article on poetry's relationship with the Olympics.


  1. What a great idea, Adele! I was in the audience at the olympic games opening ceremonies - what a huge thrill. Didn't you love the part where the queen parachuted out of the helicopter? It's known here in England that Her Majesty has a great sense of humor.

    This prompt is so appropriate - thank you!

    1. Thanks, Nicola! It must have been great to be part of the excitement and celebrations at the Olympics opening ceremonies! (The Queen parachuting from the helicopter was wonderful fun!)

  2. How do you come up with these ideas, Adele? You're always seasonally or event spot on! Wonderful! I played soccer when I was younger, so that's my subject this week.

    Thank you,

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Jamie! I love writing and posting the prompts and it's a great affirmation to receive feedback like yours!

  3. Perfect idea! I was a swimmer many moons ago so that is the sport I picked:

    1. Thanks, Annette! Your poem is wonderful - I can almost feel the water and the rush of power exerted by the swimmer. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Adele...
    This time I disagree: there is nothing of the Olympic spirit in these ceremonies, just big business.
    Here the mayor of London Boris Johnson poem in the style of Pindar to mark the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games ( but I think and hope it's just a joke):

    Ode for the London Olympics 2012

    This new Olympic flame behold,that once burned
    bright in Greece of old;with happy hearts receive
    once more these Games revived on London's shore.

    Praise rival teams, in sport allied, as athletes stream
    from far and wide; the poet too must take the road
    conveying praise to victory owed.

    And so on...

    Ciao a tutti!

    1. Ah, Jago! So much of what happens today is about big business. You're right, of course, about that component of this year's Olympics, but I really do try to see beyond it into the spirit of sport and tradition.

  5. Love this prompt, and it made me really have to think!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Tania! I'm glad to know that the prompt works for you!

  6. I like knives
    any kind of knife
    big ones
    small ones
    for art
    for fencing
    fencing is my favorite sport
    fencing with words
    is by far the best !

    1. Love it, Risa! Great twist at the end. Thanks so much for sharing!