What my father did was enable white America to think of him as an American, not as a black. By winning, he became white America’s first black hero.
So, where's the poetry connection? Joyce Carol Oates in her book, On Boxing [796.8 OAT] relates this anecdote:
Why are you a boxer, Irish featherweight champion Barry McGuigan was asked. He said: "I can't be a poet. I can't tell stories..."
And yet, another great champion boxer, Muhammad Ali, was known for his little ditties such as this:
Poet Edward Hirsch as stated that poetry has roots in work and work songs. There is a section in his book, How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry [808.1 HIR], on traditional southern black work songs and how they influenced the poetry of black writers such as Sterling Brown.
The work song is a utilitarian form whose main function is to synchronize the efforts of workers who must move together as in a chain gang. A leader provides a strong rhythmic cue with two or three bars which are then answered by the ejaculatory word or words of moving workers. The rhythmic interaction and continual interplay create a call-and-response pattern, making music a participatory activity.
Imagine a boxer preparing for a fight, hitting a speed bag or a heavy bag, developing a rhythm. I can imagine Louis reciting a rhyme or singing a song as he practiced.
If you read Joyce Carol Oates' book you can almost look at the sport of boxing as an artistic experience!
Because a boxing match is a story without words, this doesn't mean that it has no text or no language...the text is improvised in action; the language a dialogue between the boxers of the most refined sort...Ringside announcers give to the wordless spectacle a narrative unity, yet boxing as performance is more clearly akin to dance or music than narrative.
Who woulda thunk it? So, today, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to say we celebrate Louis the champion athlete and creative spirit!
Violet Nesdoly/Poems is the place to be if you're looking for even more poetry!