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Poetry Games: Cast Your Vote!

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
July 29, 2012

In the days of the ancient Greeks, poetry and sport went hand in hand at athletic festivals like the Olympics. Poets sang the praises of athletic champions and, at some festivals, even competed in official events, reciting or playing the lyre. Here at NPR, we’re reviving that tradition with our own Poetry Games.

From the far reaches of the globe, we’ve invited poets to compose original works celebrating athletes and athletics. Each morning we’ll introduce a new poem on Morning Edition, and then you, the audience, will judge who should win the victor’s laurel crown. Read and listen to the poems below and then cast your vote!

For yearsI have been dreamingof turningwriting into a sportin the Olympic Gamesthat is called, tentativelyWordliftingin which I’d givemy simplest performanceby liftingthe lightest and the liveliestword: Lovetill it flieslifting me, weightlessinto a skyof lovingeyes

Learn more about this poem

It was my feet. They were oversized for my age, restlessand strong enough to do more than pick fruit or sell fish.For kicks, in my hometown of two thousand, I tried taekwondo. I was five.

The neighbors, they thought of me as marimacha.Women around me were tough, but they were no tomboys.Dad, a fisherman by trade, was undeterred. He’s good at cultivating.

He and I, we’re driven people. The kind that lookbeyond the horizon—westward and eastward in step.Hence we outgrew the dirt roads of La Brecha (The Gap) in Sinaloa.

Did I choose the art; was it the art that chose me?But for a white uniform, I had the essentials.This was my calling: self-defense for which you needed no arms. Only fists.

Rock solid. And limber limbs and a feistinessnot antagonistic. Think dealing blows so less blowsare dealt — aiming to stop the fight, but not destroy your rival, your equal.

Where I am from, some folks do things differently.My way’s the way of the hand and foot, and unityof purpose. On the tatami, I write their bodily calligraphy.

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If a great idea is translated into a body,Then Greg Louganis is an Einstein.

If a body is translated into a great idea,Einstein is tralala oompah.

Which gods do chess grandmasters dream about?It is time, my love, we all participateIn this outrageous activity.

Let bankers with pacemakers run the marathon.Let naked sumo wrestlers decide our common fate.Let us pierce the concrete with our heads.

Every time it’s a top scoreAnd we are in no hurry to get anywhere.

Translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry

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My flat breath grows flatter. Who am I now, thick in the tricksthe body plays? No matter.

The fact of this day on fire and these arms twistedin the effort to master another

draws me in time breathless to the afternoons as a boy slickwith sweat and laughter,

horizontal in a spin, one of us in controland the other on his back and bested.

Later I would read in heaven’s bookshow my body was wrong, though limber and strong.

In the web of our efforts I aim to fix a positionwhere the other’s strength ebbs and mine kicks in.

Strength splintered to pieces,a shard in the other we each struggle to reach.

We give in turn, strip down and shift.I reach for one limb with my right hand, grip harder to another with my left.

Our bodies flash their thunder and lack.I strain for what I’m owed. I read heaven its riot act.

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There is life here

Beneath the surface tensionof shatteredbones, dreams and splintered musclesthings brokenand those that may never be replaced.

Pulling the weight of it,you do not tread the water woundedand in retreat

By the determined strokes of fateyou swim your own raceThe shoulder of your strength leaningagainst the turn –the eye that didn’t see that day,stopping the clock on the vision of your time.You continue to beatinto the heart of the spectacleManchester City, Beijing, Athens and London.

In no ordinary silencedo we watchour own feared hopes wakingenthralledand now, breathlessin awe –you are unforgettable.

Woman of scars, and triumphthe dance is fluidunexpectedtears of loss flowingtowards your many firstsYou are the Order of Ikhamangain gold.A flower,beautiful and uniqueamong the baobabs of the land

Your shape shifting,The disabled-abled bodyA questuntempered by its tests –

“if you want to get there, you go on”

You have already wonYou always doAnd we do too

We are the believers.

The message in its possibility:

A new freestyle,Long distanceAnd in your own lane.

Learn more about this poem [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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