Edited in December 9, 2009. This post was a call for wrestling poems. It was posted July 13, 2009. Four and a half months later, on November 29, 2009, the collection of 52 poems that came from this call was posted:
All-World Wrestling Poetry—a collection of 52 wrestling poems
We don’t have nearly enough wrestling poetry.
This Wrestling Poetry Project is intended to foster poetry that is about or related to the sport of amateur wrestling. This can mean our ancient idea of wrestling, which was a sport in the original Olympics, or the current sport, which has essentially three major styles here in the US: (1) the American folkstyle (a.k.a. collegiate style) which is what we have in the high schools and colleges of the USA; (2) freestyle, which is a modern Olympic sport, and (3) the upper-body-oriented Greco-Roman style, also an Olympic sport, which significantly does not include leg holds. There is also Sumo wrestling, and martial arts grappling, and many others around the world. Some of these can be found at the Wikipedia site: Wrestling, which is where the photos came from for this post.
For the Wrestling Poetry Project, the poetry you write may also be about what happens between siblings, and may include parents as family time gets rambunctious in the parlor. It may also be about wrestling with ideas, or non-human beings, or something otherworldly or what have you, for instance Jacob’s wrestling match in Genesis 32:24-32 and David Hernandez’ “Proof”, a poem in which a bear is wrestled. What I don’t mean is the professional wrestling of the WWE or what Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage would practice, with flying elbows off the top rope and tomahawk chops and whatnot.
Write a good wrestling poem, and submit it to be part of a collection of poems to be posted on Clattery Machinery on Poetry this coming November, near when wrestling season begins. This way, the collection will be available for reading by all the athletes and their friends and fans, when the online search for poetry on wrestling will once again intensify. I know it does because in 2006, when wrestling season was beginning, I made a post called Wrestling With Poetry in November, to alert readers that I would be turning my energies and focus from my frequent poetry blogging, to spend time as a moderator at MassWrestling.com. That post gets Google searched for “wrestling poetry”. There is demand for poems about wrestling, but scant supply.
Submissions will only be accepted in the submission thread at Babilu: Babilu: Wrestling Poetry Project Submission Area. To post a poem there, you will first need to be registered at Babilu. You can do that here: Register here. Babilu also has a workshop area, wherein you can post your wrestling poems for constructive feedback here: Wrestling Poetry Workshop–and please read the Read-Me. You don’t have to workshop the poem at Babilu or anywhere else. Or, you may workshop the poem elsewhere only, or at Babilu and elsewhere, and then post it in the submission area when you sense the poem is complete and ready. But, no e-mail submissions, and no private message submissions, please. This is a community project, such that we all participate and can see the collection forming as we get closer to the beginning of wrestling season.
You may submit your own work, or you may know of an old poem that is out of copyright, or maybe one that you didn’t write but you have the copyrights to. These are all welcome and wanted. You may also submit artwork that is easily posted between the poems. For instance, here is a collection of Banjo Paterson poems at Clattery MacHinery on Poetry, with pictures in between the poems: The Top 20 Greatest Banjo Paterson Poems of All Time. The number of art pieces that is acceptable depends, then, on the number of poems. We cannot have 300 pieces of artwork, if there are 3 poems. The reverse, however, can be true. And if there is only one poem, then I go with it. If we have one thousand, I’ll find a way to do that too.
Which brings up the copyright issue. These poems are to be freely shared by those who would enjoy them, for people to feel free to copy them, speak them and share them any which way. But if we poets and wrestler-poets are to give up our work for no money, it does not seem fair that someone else can use the same work for commercial purposes. Therefore, part of submitting a poem to the Wrestling Poetry Project, is that it shall come under Creative Commons–Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. This way too, as a poem gets shared, the poet’s name remains attached, so you should continue to get credit for your work.
Poems that have previously been published elsewhere are acceptable, indeed welcome, as submissions into this project. Furthermore, you can write a fresh poem, even workshop it in Babilu’s Wrestling Poetry Workshop, but get it published elsewhere first, before November that is. This also means publishers and editors are more than welcome to join the workshop conversation and solicit the poets for their poems, to get them into other publications–even those editors and publishers who would be putting their own anthologies together, all-sports anthologies, smaller wrestling anthologies, any anthologies. None of this is antithetical to or competes with the vision of this project. On the contrary, all these activities get more wrestling poems out there via different channels. Any such work that has been published elsewhere first, will be given such credit in a line following the poem’s presentation at Clattery Machinery on Poetry.
On real names and pen names. You may workshop your poetry and give feedback to others with an online name, if this helps you to be creative, if it’s more fun for you, or makes you more comfortable. When November comes around, you can then switch to your real name, so that you receive credit for your work as you are known. The reverse is also acceptable. You may want to be around other poets using your real name, but prefer to publish with a pseudonym. However you do it, I will link to a web page you are associated with, for when readers click on your name, which will appear just before your poem. You might want this web page to contain your contact information.
There is the special case of wrestlers and former wrestlers writing wrestling poems. When this happens, I would like to give the wrestling credit–whether it be a high school, college, or a particular championship or accomplishment–before the poem’s title following the name, like so:
by John Doe
Western College State University, 1973-76, 165 lb
Who is invited to submit? Anyone who can write a good wrestling poem. This project is being announced at Clattery Machinery on Poetry and Babilu, but also many online poetry workshops, such as can be found at 25 Online Poetry Forums and Workshops, and many wrestling forums such as can be found at my post at MassWrestling.com, Amateur Wrestling Forums in the USA, and also at FaceBook.
That’s sums up the guidelines for the Wrestling Poetry Project. Below are two sections that may be useful first to those who want to know a little more about amateur wrestling before getting going with a poem, and another section for those of you who may want to know a little about approaching such a poem, depending on how much wrestling you’ve done or been exposed to. For you who are all set, don’t wait for the whistle, shoot, shoot!.
Acclimating to Amateur Wrestling
Let’s begin with a collegiate wrestling match, Chad Mendes vs Jeff Jaggers for the 2008 NCAA championship at 141 lbs. I watched Jaggers become the 135-lb high school national champion and the outstanding wrestler at the 2004 NHSCA Senior Nationals in Cleveland Ohio. En route, he had to beat #2 seed Troy Tiparelle of California, who had beaten him earlier that year. So I am invested to a degree in the outcome of this match up. It’s a good one. I select it also because the announcers are clear about what is happening. You can get the gist of what’s happening without being an expert on the rules.
In the third period, there is that injury. Did you notice when Jeff Jaggers had his leg extended, that it looked potentially dangerous? That’s not supposed to happen, but it was in and out so quickly, and in and out again too quickly for the referee to make an assessment to call what was seen in the blink of the eye. Then before you know it, Jaggers is injured. The risk of injury is always there. Everyone who has been around amateur wrestling has injury stories to tell.
Here are some videos in a short series called Folkstyle Wrestling 101, in which the instructor talks over some wrestling situations, talking about take downs, escapes and reversals, the basics:
Significantly, wrestling is a team sport. High School teams field 14 wrestlers each in their 14 weight classes from 103 pounds through 275, and college teams field 10, from 125 pounds through 285. Therefore, it may not be that a given wrestler can beat his or her opponent, if that opponent is a known stud, maybe a regional champion. But the lesser opponent can win the meet for his or her team, if he or she does not get pinned, because a pin gives the opposing team more points than a decision. And the total points determine which team wins in what’s called a dual meet, when one team is against another, or a tournament.
I have been saying, “his or her opponent.” Women wrestle. There is a T-Shirt out there that reads, “Silly boys, wrestling is for girls.” Here is a freestyle wrestling match from the 1998 Pan Am Games, Jenn Ryz of Canada versus Olga Lugo of Venezuela.
I like the match, starting with the knee pick, so for the sake of illustration, the moves and types of moves are here expanded. Wrestlers have many such moves in their bags of tricks.
The Ryz-Lugo match also illustrates scoring differences between freestlyle and folkstyle. And, I confess to favoring folkstyle for the martial arts aspect, even though freestyle affords the wrestlers the chance to display their athletic prowess. For instance, what good does it do as a martial art, to keep turning your opponent over? Folkstyle is more control-oriented. In folkstyle you get back points depending on how long you can keep your opponent’s shoulders close to the mat–on the mat means a pin and you win. By the way, in the martial art called grappling, pinning your opponent does not give you victory, as your opponent can fight off her back.
Here is a highlight video of the Greco-Roman wrestling in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Notice there is no such thing as an ankle pick, as the wrestlers stay clear of the legs. There is also no commentary, which you don’t get if you’re in the crowd. What you see is what you get:
As for highlight videos, here is a freestyle one set to music:
But bear in mind, only once in a while do we get a match worthy of such an action video. Many wrestling matches are low-scoring events, that put the fans of either opponents on the edges of their seats, while nothing significant may seem to be happening for those who are not fans. At tournaments, while you wait, sometimes for hours, for your favorite wrestler to wrestle his or her next match, you occupy yourself, looking at the sometimes dozens of matches going on simultaneously in a large wide-open gymnasium or whatever other facility is available in a given community.
So what is it really like? Here is Victor DeJesus of Lowell High School in Massachusetts wrestling another 145-pounder, Joey Eon of Massabesic High School in Waterboro, Maine. They are wrestling for the 2008-09 New England Championship. It’s folkstyle, where we started. To be invested, pretend one wrestler is your brother, your son, or your teammate, and root for him from the opening whistle:
Approaching a Wrestling Poem
There is the adage for poets to write what you know, and not what you don’t know. This leaves a lot of latitude, but on the other hand, it means it is going to be difficult to write a poem from the viewpoint of a wrestler if you have never wrestled. Let’s first look at poetry that is outside the realm of having to be a wrestler, or poems that come from outside the realm of having to be even an athlete or fighter of any kind.
It seems that in Genesis where Jacob wrestles with God, or the angel, the scribe did not have to be a wrestler. Although, my hunch is that the writer was at least exposed to wrestling matches. But, whether David Hernandez ever wrestled, his poem “Proof” could have been written by him anyway, or it seems so. And the point here is that your readers can tell.
This brings up the amount of exposure a poet needs to have in order to write from certain points of view–which in turn raises the question of how much of the wrestling perspective can be accomplished by a family member who is the fan and not the fighter, or more importantly, someone who has been en-culturated into the wrestling community. There is a poem with the first line, “My dad was a boxer and all his brothers,” and I believe from my reading that the poet is indeed the daughter of a boxer. In my view, she needed to be in order to write the poem: “Too Hurt Not To”, which is by Naomi Woddis. You decide. And my point here is not so much to limit what you write, but to show how there is much ground for anyone to write from. You can be a family member or a fan, and write a terrific wrestling poem.
Now let’s go to the observer poem. In Kelly Cherry’s “On Watching a Young Man Play Tennis,” we don’t ever have to know whether Cherry ever played tennis, or was even a fan of tennis. However, it seems that she has watched a match or two. By the way, the link to that poem is to the specific place where her poem appears in the anthology of poetry and fiction called Sports in America, edited by Peter Stine. You can read through it for other approaches and inspirations that you may favor. Note that there are no poems or stories in there about wrestling. You might also read Don Johnson’s Introduction in his book The sporting muse.
The most famous poems by fighters are the ones by war poets who were soldiers at war, either when they wrote the poem, or after they were off the battlefield. Here is a famous one by WWI soldier Wilfred Owen:
He gives an eye-witness view that would be difficult to achieve if he had not been there. He was exposed and he in turn is able to expose us to his experience of that war.
Tapping other emotions of wartime, we also have the famous poem, “Here, Bullet”, by Brain Turner, who was in Iraq:
Notice that, for the first half of the poem, you can very nearly replace his word “Bullet” with “Wrestler”. He has been a soldier/fighter, and if he had been a wrestler, he could have begun a poem in a very similar way. This ought to be the same for any athlete. If you have played a sport, especially at the varsity level, there are experiences that you have had that should transfer well, the facts of the athletic event that you can well relate to, and should make your poem come alive on the page for the reader.
I go into some underpinnings of the Brian Turner poem in a post at Clattery Machinery on Poetry called Alley War Poetry. The sport there is boxing, versus wrestling. But it could be worth a look. Other points are made in that article, such as that not all poetry needs to be or ought to be uplifting, nor should it necessarily take the reader into wise places in the cosmos. Poetry can take us to the heights, but also the depths, and then again to the ground where we live, or reveal the edges of it.