Sunday, April 06, 2008

Olympic Poetry

One of my favorite family memories is our crazy, spur-of-the-moment trip to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the Summer Olympics in 1996. We had been watching coverage on television and just thought, “Let’s go!” We bought tickets for a few events (javelin throw, some track races) over the Internet (a first for us in 1996!) and made the drive from Texas. We slept on the floor of a church in a 100-year-old building arranged through a friend (since there were no hotel rooms to be had at such short notice) and we had a great time seeing the athletes and swarms of visitors from all around the world. It was a SEA of people. Exhilarating!

Did you know that one of the prizes awarded to a victorious Olympic athlete was a poem? You mean you haven’t seen athletes getting a poem during the Olympics? That’s because modern-day Olympic athletes only receive medals. Today we celebrate the first modern-day Olympics that were held April 6, 1896 in Athens, Greece. Here are a few excerpts of a beautiful poem that captures a moment that is both historic and moving.

Joan Benoit
1984 U.S. Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist
by Rina Ferrarelli (copyrighted)


she surged ahead
leaving behind the press
of bodies, the breath
hot on her back


Sure, determined,
moving to an inner rhythm
measuring herself against herself


and she was still fresh
and not even out of breath
and standing.

Look for the whole poem in Lillian Morrison's collection, More Spice Than Sugar: Poems About Feisty Females (2001) illustrated by Ann Boyajian (Boston: Houghton Mifflin). This poem first appeared in American Sports Poems (Schocken, 1988), edited by May Swenson and R. R. Knudson, and from there has been reprinted in many other anthologies, including some for children.

Younger children may enjoy X. J. Kennedy’s elephant + Olympics poetry collection, Elympics (Philomel, 1999), also available on audio. For more sports poetry, look for works by Lillian Morrison (e.g., At the Crack of the Bat: Baseball Poems) and Charles R. Smith (e.g., Diamond Life: Baseball Sights, Sounds, and Swings) who have each authored several collections of sports-themed poetry.

Here are a few more of my favorite sports poetry books for children.
Adoff, Arnold. 1986. Sports Pages. HarperCollins.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett, comp. 1996. Opening Days: Sports Poems. Harcourt.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett, comp. 1999. Sports! Sports! Sports! HarperCollins.
Knudson, R. Roxanne, and May Swensen, comp. 1988. American Sports Poems. Orchard.
Prelutsky, Jack. 2007. Good Sports; Rhymes About Running, Jumping, Throwing, and More. Knopf.

All set for the summer Olympics? 08.08.08!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Like the Olympic poems alot. You should post it on my website to get more people to view it. I have a sports section you could put it under. Jon