Is poetry becoming more muscular or has tennis gotten more literary? Whichever way you look at it, the two worlds are moving closer together this year with the appointment of British versifier Matt Harvey as Wimbledon's first-ever official poet.
Harvey is well known to many Britons as a humorist and "performance poet" who writes books and performs live on stage and on the radio. To help chronicle and promote the famed tennis tournament, he will be writing a poem a day for two weeks. (His first, "The Grandest of Slams," can be seen here.) Readers will be able to follow Harvey's daily verse online at the Wimbledon site, at the Poetry Trust site, on Twitter, or via podcast.
There is, of course, some precedent for poetry at Wimbledon. Above the players' entrance to Centre Court are inscribed the words, "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same" from Rudyard Kipling's poem 1899 "If." Perhaps now that everywhere from Heathrow airport to high-end department store Marks & Spencer features writers-in-residence it makes sense that Wimbledon – another venerable British institution – would follow suit.
Harvey is not likely to serve up anything very Kipling-esque. ("[I]it's the/ whizz, it's the biz,/ The temple where physics expresses/ its fizz" is more his style.)
But he is on record as saying that he is thrilled – albeit a bit nervous – about his new post as Championships Poet 2010.
"Quite simply I'm delighted, with a little bit of healthy anxiety thrown in," he told The Guardian. "It's an honour, and I'm acutely conscious it's the only time I'll come first in anything at Wimbledon, unless you count the queue for strawberries."
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.