Since it is that time of year…
Skipping over Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries, merely because I haven’t read (or seen) it, William Matthews, who I’ve mentioned before, jumps to mind with regards to March Madness. In addition to jazz and family, basketball is a frequent preoccupation of his poems. Matthews talks about practice (“Foul Shots: A Clinic“) with an eye towards the metaphysical, about attending a game (“Cheap Seats, The Cincinnati Gardens, Professional Basketball, 1959“) with an eye towards adolescents’ reality, and about players’ physicality (“In Memory of the Utah Stars“), from both a fan and former player’s point of view.
In “Sandlot Basketball” that former-player aspect is the focus. Amidst a memory of youth comes age’s regret, “Dribbling in the dust, coughing like a dying boat, each knee the color of a boiling lobster, I hate my decadent grace. Body, come back; all is forgiven.” Basketball and youth, being so related and so short a period of time, perhaps explains the frequent poems which are looking back on basketball from old(er) age, with tinges of regret, as in John Updike’s “Ex-Basketball Player” and B.H. Fairchild’s “Old Men Playing Basketball” with their “heavy bodies” and those bodies’ “broken language,” and their hands “fine and nervous on the lug wrench.”
Yusef Komunyakaa’s basketball poem Slam, Dunk & Hook, has these high-energy, beautiful descriptions of athleticism, youth in their prime, Continue reading