Let's Play Ball! Share Your Sports-Inspired Poems

Nov 13, 2019
Originally published on November 13, 2019 10:09 am

NPR wants to read how sports has touched your life — in poetry form.

Maybe a home run is like getting your dream job – or asking your sweetheart for a first date felt like a Hail Mary pass. Maybe you find inspiration in E. Ethelbert Miller's poem, If God Invented Baseball — or NPR's poet-in-residence Kwame Alexander's basketball poem, The Show.

You can use sport as a metaphor for our lives — or simply write about the game or team you love. And don't feel constrained by poetry type. It can be a haiku, a sonnet, a rhyming couplet — even free verse.

Share your sports-inspired poem by following this link and it could be featured in an upcoming Morning Edition segment with Alexander.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I am here once again with our poet in residence, Kwame Alexander. Hi, Kwame.

KWAME ALEXANDER: Hey, Rachel.

MARTIN: You are living in London right now, but you are back in Washington, D.C. And I don't know if you can feel this, Kwame, but there is a certain spirit here because (singing) we won the World Series. We won the World Series.

ALEXANDER: That's right. That's right. The Nationals did it. Yeah. You know, when you think about it, there's a lot that baseball can teach us about life, Rachel.

MARTIN: OK. Do tell.

ALEXANDER: Getting a hit is like finding a friend or the right job. Striking out can be like doing bad on a test or losing someone. Most of the time, we won't get a hit, and we will seldom pitch the perfect game. Baseball reminds us that we are human, and we make errors.

MARTIN: And baseball, as you have just illustrated to me, there is something totally poetic about this sport.

ALEXANDER: It is, and that's a metaphor I borrowed from E. Ethelbert Miller's poetry collection, which I was reading. It's called "If God Invented Baseball." We should probably share something from that book, right?

MARTIN: OK. Cool. Let's do it.

ALEXANDER: All right. You start.

MARTIN: OK. (Reading) If God invented baseball, there would be no stealing, no balks, no wild pitches or intentional walks. There would be no pitch-outs, foul balls or errors. There would be no one-hand catches or bean balls. There would be no curves or sliders, no rundowns or warning tracks.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) If God invented baseball, there would be no night games, no balls getting lost in the sun. There would be no bunting or swinging for the fences. There would be no double plays or triple plays. If God invented baseball, he would not rest on the seventh day. Instead, he would turn to us and say, let's play two. He would let us bat first while his angels danced in the outfield.

MARTIN: I love it. That's a beautiful thing.

ALEXANDER: It's powerful.

MARTIN: So when we talk about poetry and sports, do you have a favorite sport?

ALEXANDER: Now, I really liked basketball. I just wasn't the best baller in school. But my kid, she's got hoops. So I'm an avid watcher of basketball.

MARTIN: Nice. OK. Speaking of avidness, you are also an avid writer of basketball books. And so I'm going to put you on the spot. I want you to read one of your basketball poems for us.

ALEXANDER: I love being on the spot.

MARTIN: I know you do.

ALEXANDER: I shall read a piece from my most recent book, "The Crossover (Graphic Novel)." But let's do something different with it, Rachel.

MARTIN: OK.

ALEXANDER: I'm going to test your rhyming skills. I will leave several words blank, and you're going to have to fill them in.

MARTIN: Really?

ALEXANDER: Yes.

MARTIN: OK (laughter).

ALEXANDER: Here we go. (Reading) A quick shoulder shake, a flick I fake, No. 28 is way past late. He's reading me like a book, but I turn the page and watch him look, which can only mean I got him shook. His feet are the bank and I'm the...

MARTIN: His feet are the bank and I'm the crook.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) Breaking, braking, braking, taking him to the left; now he's took. No. 14 joins in. Now he's on the...

MARTIN: Hook.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) I got two in my kitchen. I'm fixing to...

MARTIN: Cook, cook.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) Prepping my meal, ready for glass, nobody's expecting Kwame to pass. I see Rachel Martin under the hoop, so I serve her up my...

MARTIN: Alley-oop.

ALEXANDER: Yes. That was fire. You nailed it.

MARTIN: That was luck, man, total luck. OK. So we're going to see if our listeners can nail it as well.

ALEXANDER: Of course, they can.

MARTIN: We want you to write your own sports poem, everyone.

ALEXANDER: No particular poetry form this time, people. It can be a haiku. It can be a free verse poem, a sonnet, a rhyming couplet, whatever you decide.

MARTIN: OK. So send your submissions in writing to npr.org/sportspoem. And the next time Kwame and I are together in the studio, we will do what we do. We will read a few of your poems.

ALEXANDER: Parents, teachers, students, kids, everybody - let's play ball, folks.

MARTIN: Get in the game. Kwame Alexander is a regular contributor to MORNING EDITION, the author of "The Crossover (Graphic Novel)" and the inaugural innovator in residence at the American School in London. We'll see you in a few weeks.

ALEXANDER: Shout out to the Wizards.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SPACE JAM")

QUAD CITY DJ'S: (Rapping) Come on. It's time to get hype. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.