Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

July 13, 2009

Wrestling Poetry Project

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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

 

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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!.
   

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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:

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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.

Start writing. And here again is the link to the workshop where you can get constructive feedback: Wrestling Poetry Workshop. Once it is ready, post it here: Wrestling Poetry Project Submission Area.

Thank you.
 

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September 24, 2007

Alley War Poetry

   

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Marvelous Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas “The Hit Man” Hearns

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, April 15, 1985

Announcers: Al Bernstein and Al Michaels

   

Alley War Poetry

   

The pugilists are in the desert, somewhere far from most of humanity and society. They are at a resort, however, a magnificent getaway, elevated in the middle of a roped-off ring, with cameras surrounding. They have taken the center of the world from us, and placed it into that squared area they occupy. They are poets, informing us of brutality and violence from this very different point of view.

We must relinquish our individual world centers to theirs, but in doing so, these centers merge in passing. In the merger, the metaphor is no longer a metaphor. It does not stand for affecting our lives; it affects our lives. Thus created is poetry, a poetry written before a word is spoken, before the words for it are thought of, and in vivo. Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns are scripting the wordless narrative out of earshot, the good and the bad of it, a new violence for us upon first viewing, something to reflect upon afterward, something brutal with important aspects, both a metaphor and a reality to re-use for different purposes, even now again, 22 years later.

There is poetry to be found in violence. Poetry is not anti-war as such. Witnessing a four-dimensional Rubik’s cube with one color wrong, the alley war poet intuits how much unravelling must be done for a short period of resolution, until new aspects bear themselves into the world, and the cube must be re-solved–this whether one or a billion dark sides surface the wrong way, whether in times of peace or war. Violence will always be an unsolved part of the whole of us and each one of us. Indeed, when he was 13, Hagler’s home was destroyed, and people around him killed, in the race riots in Newark. But as an athlete poet, when his ideas and rhythms prevail, he is prevailing, and his message comes through.

Civilly speaking, the fight could, and arguably should be stopped (if it should have taken place at all), upon Hagler’s profuse bloodshed. In earlier ages and other places, such an event would be a fight to the death, though. This violence and brutality of boxing matches are not in our civilized centers of commerce and community centers, but under the preserve of state sanction and institutional procedure. Even still, boxers like soldiers, our young adults die and become disabled through their fighting. We understand that such brutality exists, and make it against the law. Our society, through our humanity, has drawn legal and moral lines.

Yet, we are able, through such an event, to allow our shadows, what is inhumane of our humanness, to be spoken to. This is an aspect of life that has never gone away. Like the sex drive, it may either be brought out orgiastically; or in recession, monastically; but it remains part of us. The taller we are in the light, the longer the shadow, from each given vantage point. Hagler, for instance, his entire adult life, no matter where he has lived, has given himself to causes for children, as they mature in the world, and as they die in hospitals.

Sometimes the line before violence and brutality disappears. This can happen within the individual, within families, within social groups or gangs, and, during wartime. Poetry may unveil this.
   

by Wilfred Owen
   

Dulce Et Decorum Est
   

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

   

Wilfred Owen gives us brutal word poetry here, the violence everpresent in being human is heavy, the darkness brought to light. From where he stood, the darkness is out in the open. The events in this poem, however, were neither staged nor so scripted by the people doing the violence. The main character, the hero, is dying, then dead. It is gruesome. The poem existed where muses exist, and was written into words by one who would otherwise be a background player, one of the other soldiers.

But where is the poetry? Is it in his words? Not essentially. Essentially, it is in the unfolding story. It is pre-verbal: Chopin, Marceau, and Hagler. In this sense what we usually think of as poetry, is a sub genre. It is word poetry.

Let’s attempt to shift the metaphor of the poet from the pugilists to the announcers, Bernstein and Michaels. This makes Hagler and Hearns the main characters in an unfolding drama. The announcers are witnessing an event. Before their eyes, two warriors with great heart, hope and humanity are duking it out. A golden story seems to be unfolding, inspiring them. Bernstein and Michaels are streaming their words, as they relate this to us, their imagined audience, spontaneously, with repetition, simile, metaphor, alliteration, and meter that together borders on the music of song. Sometimes they really are singing.

This, then, could be thought of as a (p)entacostal event. The shaman (here, the pugilist) takes the journey into the breadths and depths of human nature, and comes back with something that the village priest is capable of interpreting into the lives of us lay people. Nowadays, the poet is expected to do both, take the inspirational journey of the hero, and then write it down for the rest of us to read and re-center from, or at least keep in our pockets for later reference. But there is a catch.

When Owen wrote Dulce Et Decorum Est, it was reflective. His journey was internal and after-the-fact. A poet may tell us fiction, but Owen relates something that had happened, something he witnessed in real life. Both the essential poetry and the verbal poetry came from him–what we have come to expect from our poets. Note too that, although it is often recited, the poem’s birth event is in written, not spoken, form–not to say he was not whispering or even singing the lines as he composed, maybe he was. Nor was he dancing or beating a drum. Both Hagler and Hearns, however, were in their ways dancing. Our shamans speak to us in many ways.

Bernstein and Michaels have a poetic event unfolding before them. Their poetics are of the spoken language kind (and here I don’t mean to compare or even debate poetic ability, simply to grant that they speak in verse). Note instead, that their rhythms are different from the rhythms of the fighters. That’s the catch I mentioned. It is a split we witness, between the movement and focus of the pugilists, and the versification of the announcers. The event a poet relates, is decidedly different from the event of its relating. The verbal poem has a different sense, sound, and rhythm than the essential poetry inspiring it.

In case there is any tension, let’s bridge this gap between the spontaneous relating of an inspirational event, and the practiced writing of poetic reflection. Here is Jack Kerouac’s spontaneous bop prose, as he called it, in “On the Road”:

“He’s mad,” I said, “and yes, he’s my brother.” I saw Dean coming back with the farmer in his tractor. They hooked chains on and the farmer hauled us out of the ditch. The car was muddy brown, a whole fender was crushed. The farmer charged us five dollars. His daughters watched in the rain. The prettiest, shyest one hid far back in the field to watch and she had good reason because she was absolutely and finally the most beautiful girl Dean and I ever saw in all our lives. She was about sixteen, and had Plains complexion like wild roses, and the bluest eyes, the most lovely hair, and the modesty and quickness of a wild antelope. At every look from us she flinched. She stood there with the immense winds that blew clear down from Saskatchewan knocking her hair about her lovely head like shrouds, living curls of them. She blushed and blushed.

The rhythms in Kerouac’s bop prose, are not the rhythms of a car being yanked out of a ditch. The sounds are not close either. What a racket it must have been, and a sight and emotional sense for all to witness. But the pacing at first is as if Kerouac was somewhat out of breath, or maybe becomes a bit breathless as he recalls the event. In describing the beautiful daughter, we do not get her rhythms either, nor the rhythms of the wind blowing. We get the pacing of the witness (Jack Kerouac’s Sal Paradise), his vantage, his rhythms. We understand at once, how we could be him with his eyes, how this certain part of him seems to be a certain part of us, but in our own reflection, how we are different from him. Through his wording, we surmise as best we can, what was really taking place, both within the scene described, and within the describer.

Imagine that Bernstein and Michaels could not make it to Las Vegas. Instead, the promoters asked if they could put a microphone up to Hagler in order that he give us, in his own words, the unfolding details of the fight. Could we expect poetry from his words? I cannot help thinking of Muhammad Ali, who may have been poetic with his words before and after a fight, and maybe during as he taunted his opponents, but the poetry of his athletics was something else again. Bob Dylan is a poet in this wider sense, a song poet, which is different from being a word poet. Chopin is a poet of the piano specifically, and Marceau a poet of mime. The poetry of the artist or athlete is found in what is practiced.

Owen and Kerouac, were each able, at some juncture, to experience the poetry of the moments they relate–then as poets of the word, communicate such essence to us after the fact. In both cases, there is nothing goody-goody about what the people are doing. Owen’s war is evident. His hero is dying, a victim. Kerouac’s scene, on the other hand, involves the reckless destruction of a car, leading to the potential womanizing of a 16-year-old girl by a couple older guys passing through town. His heroes are culprits.

Whereas Owen has us look squarely at the dark side of human nature from the attitude of the light, Kerouac has us looking at the light from the vantage of the darkness. Hagler is doing the same as Kerouac, only instead of bringing fiction to an actual event, he actualizes a hoped-for event, walking through the necessary dark alley to get to the light–taking us with him like a good poet would. Here is such a poetic relationship with violence, through Iraq veteran and poet Brian Turner:
   

   

Turner begins his poem “Here, Bullet,” with what could have been the words of Marvelous Marvin Hagler if he could have scripted words into his fight with Thomas Hearns:

If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started.

The world yearns for the good fight, a real live hero fighting for good to prevail, and knows the violence of it exists out there, even if in a far-off desert where poets or shamans sojourn, even if ducking from bullets in a tenement in New Jersey somewhere.
   


   

After the fight, Hagler spoke of his concern, that he hoped the fans got their money’s worth, the scheduled 15-rounder ending before the bell of the third round. He was assured that this was the case. This is not a necessary attribute of a poet, wanting others and posterity to benefit from individual inspiration. It’s good to see, though. But, whether they care or not, the poets’ service is invaluable, if only in that we come together as witnesses to each other and, therefore, ourselves. What’s even better, is if we can then continue with a conversation, informed by the poet. Here is the ending to Turner’s poem:

                        Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.

As the modern poet, he accepts that he is shaman, who must complete the communicative process, and write it down for us, how “the world ends, every time.” He continues the conversation, from the vantage point of a soldier who has witnessed too often what Owen witnessed. It is from here, he seems to be responding to Carl Jung’s thoughts on death:
   

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