At a post-match press conference at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Serena Williams commented on her triumph as the tournament’s champion. Amidst questions of her victory, Williams seemed stunned by one query.
“If there’s one word you’d want in a poem about yourself, what would it be?” Priscila Uppal asked. After pausing for a few seconds, Williams responds with ‘gnarly,’ admitting that she never thought of such a thing before.
Uppal has gotten many athletes thinking while serving as Canadian Athletes Now’s poet-in-residence at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and London 2012.
Uppal, who penned two poems daily during both Olympics, believes sports and poetry have several similarities. She believes that to be successful in both, one’s ability to think is directly related to how they react.
“When you read or write poetry, there are certain areas of the brain that are activated,” she said. “That is what makes someone successful in adapting and being innovative. This is how breakthroughs happen.”
Uppal is one of 50 contributing poets to “And The Crowd Goes Wild!” an anthology of sports poems for children. The anthology’s author, Carol-Ann Hoyte held a launch on Friday night inside the Toronto Public Library’s Northern District Branch at 40 Orchard View Blvd.
Hoyte, an assistant librarian at the Selwyn House boy’s school in Montreal thinks poets are similar to athletes in terms of regiment.
“Like an athlete, if you don’t practice every day, the muscles are going to get underused and you’re going to get weak,” she said. “There is a practice and a discipline aspect.”
Hoyte also believes poets are similar to athletes as far as gaining competitive edge and perfecting their craft so they can get their points across.
“You have swimmers and cyclists who shave their legs because it can affect their speed. When I think of poetry, you’re always cutting the excess fat, all those words that aren’t doing anything,” Hoyte said. “It’s really just getting down to the essence.”
“And The Crowd Goes Wild!” illustrator, Kevin Sylvester has been through the best of both worlds. The CBC Radio sportscaster has written prose exploring the unknown nuances of sports and plays hockey in his spare time as a goal tender.
Sylvester thinks hockey best describes ‘poetry in motion,’ given the graceful moments on display.
“When you say a player is a great skater on the ice like an Alexander Ovechkin, it’s called ‘poetry on ice.’ You can’t figure out a better way to describe it by saying what they do is beautiful,” he said. “Poetry is beautiful. It captures all of those actions and emotions and feelings of being an athlete.”
Sylvester also believes that sports language is poetry in itself, saying that those descriptions can help to create mental pictures that make sports more interesting.
“You have all sorts of references to races, jumping over hurdles,” he said. “They start to realize how you can use those terms to create visual images.”