Friday, May 21, 2010

Bard at work: serving up stanzas at SW19

Quiet please!

Bard at work.

Earlier this week, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club appointed a resident poet for The Championships. Matt Harvey, a regular on BCC Radio 4's Saturday Live, is the anointed bard of this summer's Wimbledon fortnight. His duty is daunting: serve and volley a poem a day that captures the flavor of London SW19 (the postcode area for Wimbledon), filling stanzas with verse full of strawberries and cream, Pimm's Cups, queue lines, ball boys, changes of dress, recollections of classic John McEnroe tantrums, and rain.

Following the previous lead of resident writers for Heathrow Airport and Marks & Spencer, Wimbledon organizers teamed up with the Poetry Trust on this writer-in-residence program. Harvey's musings will be published online via The Poetry Trust and the official Wimbledon websites, and, and in special podcasts. He'll also recite his poems to the queue lines waiting to enter the club grounds.

"Quite simply I'm delighted, with a little bit of anxiety thrown in," said Harvey, quoted in the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper. "It's an honour, and I'm acutely conscious it's the only time I'll come first in anything at Wimbledon, unless you county the queue for strawberries."

Perhaps, Harvey can look to Rudyard Kipling's "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same" that's inscribed above the player's entrance to Centre Court for inspiration. Or, merely reflect on Roger Federer's sustained excellence on the hollowed green. Whether relying on whimsy or perspective, there's plenty of history and lore for Harvey to draw upon.

Harvey's already penned his first poem as Championships Poet 2010:

Excuse me. I'm sorry. I speak as an
For the game of lawn tennis there's no
better symbol than Wimbledon,
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 dwindled in
The Grand Slams' best of breed -- it's the
whizz, it's the biz,
The temple where physics expresses
it's fizz.
There's one word for tennis and that
one word is

Now, then, can poetry slams on Centre Court be far behind?

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