I recently visited a school as part of a Meet The Author Day and was talking to groups of young writers about the work surrounding my latest book, ‘Searching For Hen’s Teeth- Poetry From The Search Zone.’ The usual questions arose during the day:
Where do you get your ideas?
What inspired you to write poetry?
Do you have a favourite poem?
Do you prefer rhyming verse or free verse?
How long have you been writing poetry?
How did you get your poetry book published?
How long does it take to write a book?
All these questions are valid. All of them quite normal. But one Grade 6 boy’s question set me to thinking more deeply about my response. He raised his hand and asked, ‘Do you like sport?
I have been asked this question before. In fact. It has been raised with me on numerous occasions and it is always posed by boys. I suspect that in the minds of many boys, poetry and sports are viewed as mutually exclusive pursuits. Poetry is seemingly passive and sport, an active pursuit preferred by the majority of male role models in the lives of boys.
I gently explained that sport and poetry have both been my travelling companions throughout life. There has been plenty of room for both of them as I have journeyed through the years. For me, it was never an either or decision.
Sport has been a strong thread in my life, for as long I can remember. I played football and cricket for as long as my body would allow. Team sports gave me a balanced perspective regarding the twin impostors- victory and defeat. Enduring friendships came from my sporting encounters. I am so grateful for the rich vein of experience connected to my sporting life. I had a strong desire to run quickly and jump a long way, so athletics was the perfect outlet in my youth. It was the perfect release for youthful exuberance. My aching body stands as testimony to a life spent in sporting pursuits.
Poetry ran parallel to sport. It was always there. Throughout my schooling, university and my entire adult life, it has been present, acting like a counter balance. It was never a private passion. I was happy for people to know me for my love of poetry.
So, yes, I do love sport, but I also love poetry. Poetry continues unabated, despite my increasing sporting limitations. There is room in my heart for many different pursuits. Sport and poetry co exist in my life and both of them have provided so many rich experiences. For me, there is harmony. I sometimes write poems about sport to further reinforce that link.
I will continue to challenge the misconceptions surrounding the arts and sports. I remain, a fully functioning literate sports nut. So boys, feel free to follow my lead, if you wish.