Friday, April 1, 2016

Tennis, a subject for poetry

As some of you know, I am a poet. To celebrate National Poetry Month, I'm presenting
the tennis poetry I've written over the past few years.

First, some blank verse originally published in 2013 in The Barnstormer:

The Lesson of Caroline

Up and down and side to side she sprints
without fatigue. The match can last for hours;
the Dane will scarcely shine a bead of sweat
or fail to stretch and meet the ball right on
the sweet spot. With those metronomic swings,
Wozniacki can wear down the stalwart grinders,
the spinners, steely veterans, braided upstarts.
But Wozniacki needs to take it from you.
She takes it, but she doesn't dish it out.
To run the risk, to grab control, feels wrong
somehow--no Sunshine in that raw aggression.
So Wozniacki never wins the big ones;
she doesn't get to lift the silver plate
or see her smile reflected in a statue.
To guard and to defend is something learned;
it propels you to the line, but never over.
Watching Wozniacki's hesitation,
I confront the Caroline who lives in me.

Also published in The Barnstormer:

Watching Them Play On Clay

This is not the tennis you learned in school
in New York, California or Wisconsin.
This is dirty. Socks turn red, feet slide
like sandpaper on the smoothest pine
surface. The thwack of clay knocked
out of shoe soles, the tiny bits of brick
that stick to sweaty thighs, quivering
ever so slightly as muscles twitch--
and then the wait. The long wait.
No first strike here, but rather, patience,
as minutes seem to swirl past while the yellow
departs the red, and spins toward the white.
There is art in the slice, grace in the grind.
Thinking is required. And stretching, bending,
beholding the big picture in fluid angles.
The rain can fall, the game goes on,
the court a wash of cinnabar.
This is not the tennis you learned in school;
this is dirty and beautiful.

An Elizabeth Barrett Browning satire from the 2014 Family Circle Cup, written after one of Errani's
inimitable net performances:

The Errani-Browning Riff

How do I drop thee? Let me count the ways.
I drop thee to the depth and breadth and height
My racket can reach, when feeling out of sorts
For the ends of lobbing and ideal grace.
I drop thee to the level of every game's
Most quiet slide, by sun and stadium-light.
I drop thee freely, as women strive for rights;
I drop thee purely, as they return my second serves.
I drop thee with the passion put to use
In my old beliefs, and with my Fed Cup's faith.
I drop thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost ranking. I drop thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my career; and, if God choose,
I shall but drop thee better after Charleston.

Haiku written when Wozniacki ran the New York marathon:

Haiku For Wozniacki

Leaves of red-gold blur
past the Lady, past the past
Caroline, you run!

And Haiku written just before a Wimbledon tournament:

Haiku For Kvitova

White-clad women grace
perfect, verdant lawns in June
Petra, mow them down!


Todd.Spiker said...

Ah, the "lessons of Caroline" could probably fuel/inspire an entire poetry collection, couldn't it? Her struggles have a universal quality to them.

Have you even written something with Vika as the subject/inspiration? In so many ways, she's the living and breathing opposite of Wozniacki. While Caro often is reticent and holds back, Vika is sometimes a constantly-moving-forward force of nature. Sometimes to her own detriment, sure... but that's just Vika being Vika. ;)

Diane said...

I haven't written about Vika, but you never know. I've wanted to write about Serena, Aga and Petra (other than a haiku), but writing has been difficult for a while. All of them would make good subjects.

Diane said...

Wow--those line breaks got all messed up--just noticed. Fixed.

jo shum said...

The difference on vika: she hates to lose. She even detests herself for making one mistake in her stroke. Serena the same, she once said she hates to lose more than she likes to win.

For most others they would pad themselves on their backs saying they have improved , they have had good tournaments, there is always next time. Tennis is a brutal sport, time doesn't wait for anyone.

Diane said...

Agree. Vika is in smackdown mode again.