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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Poetry and Basketball

In light of tonight's Game 7 of the NBA Finals, we at HFR thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about the slightly odd, opposites attract relationship between poetry and basketball. It exists, and if the two were a celebrity couple they would be the new Angelina Jolie/Billy-Bob Thornton, a beauty and a beast whose relationship is equally odd and mysterious.

As a poet who has recently developed a near-unhealthy obsession for professional basketball, I have been asked frequently over the past season (mostly by my girlfriend), "What the hell happened to you?" In a matter of months I went from knowing almost nothing about the NBA to being able to quote stats and salaries for a laundry list of players. I expanded our cable package to include NBA TV. I bought a Kevin Garnett jersey.

For me, I truly believe there is an intimate relationship between the court and the page, the point guard and the poet. Look beyond the cliche "basketball is poetry in motion" stuff; I think it is more than that. It is a respect, an awe, for those who immerse themselves completely in their work and are amazing at it. It is the high-running emotion of a close game, the either complete devastation or rush of overpowering happiness that comes from a game winning buzzer shot, depending on which side of it you are on. There is automatic camaraderie between fans of the same team, a feeling of "we are in this together, no matter what" which is in many ways exactly what poetry does to it's readers: unifies us under the common front of human beings experiencing life as it comes to us. Basketball is everything good poetry hopes to be: awe-inspiring, powerful, unifying.

Maybe I am reading too far into it. My girlfriend thinks it's just a premature mid-life crisis. Maybe she's right. Either way, when game 7 kicks off tonight I'll be watching it much the same way I would sit down to work on a poem: at home, with a beer in hand, trying to work through the ups and downs of the game all in hopes of coming out with something that will be remembered for years to come.

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