Sporty Stanzas: 4 Poetry Collections About Athletes
Sports and athleticism might not seem to have much in common with poetry, but the surprising similarities add up. Both rely on creating a sense of tension or setting the stakes, both incorporate a sense of movement and rhythm, and both play with opposing forces—whether that means two different teams or some well-executed juxtaposition. It turns out that many poets have picked up on these like-minded energies, bringing sports themes to the forefront of their collections. Dive into these books to explore this competitive connection.
1. Joe DiMaggio Moves Like Liquid Light by Loren Broaddus
Inspired by the author’s love for baseball, Joe DiMaggio Moves Like Liquid Light reveals how sports become a lens through which to understand and contemplate broader issues, including politics, race, and history. Loren Broaddus uses the baseball stadium as his setting and fills his debut collection with prominent players, but considers the game to be a metaphor for so much more. Nostalgic and family-oriented readers will also appreciate the book for how it reflects on baseball’s role as a deep, time-honored tradition.
2. Fighting Is Like a Wife by Eloisa Amezcua
Sports can also be a topic through which to examine heavy concepts like pain, brutality, and loss, all of which appear at the heart of Eloisa Amezcua’s ambitious, highly visual collection Fighting Is Like a Wife. The frenetic and ever-shifting forms of these multimodal poems mirror the way boxers move and take up space, paying tribute to the famous athlete at the center of Amezcua’s latest book: top-performing boxer Bobby Chacon. These poems, which beautifully blend gentleness and volatility, are not only about Chacon’s career, but also about how it affected his health and first marriage.
3. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
The Crossover has won honors like the Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award for its pivotal and influential role in introducing poetry to teenagers and young adults. The popular novel in verse chronicles the story of 12-year-old Josh Bell’s incredible athletic ability, showcasing how basketball helps him to form bonds, appreciate his family, and find his voice.
4. Gym Bras by Crystal Stone
Made up of poems with titles like “Chest Day,” “Leg Day,” and “Back & Booty Day,” it quickly becomes evident that Gym Bras—the third collection from confessional feminist poet Crystal Stone—centers around the sport of weightlifting. Throughout the collection, Stone questions what it means to work out and occupy the space of a gym as a woman, taking the reader on a journey through athleisure, body dysmorphia, and more. Stone’s multi-faceted poems indicate that the gym can be both a toxic space and an empowering space, as well as a setting in which to engage with and push back against systems like sexism and fatphobia.
Wanting to explore more unexpected threads between poetry and other art forms? Check out Read Poetry’s roundup of poets who are also successful musicians.