Saturday – Something Light
In honor of the French Open (I expect to see Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova win this weekend), I share a poem by Robert Pinsky, a former poet laureate. Apparently Pinsky is an ardent tennis player, a factoid that reminds me of a series of New Yorker cartoons many years ago.
I don’t remember the cartoonist or the specific examples, but the premise of the series was famous artists taking up a hobby and thereby depriving the world of a certain number of masterpieces. Because (so the cartoon imagined) Degas took up gardening for five months, the world lost out on twelve paintings and six statues.
So who knows how many poems Pinsky’s own fascination with tennis cost us.
Then again, if he hadn’t played tennis, this long poem (I only post a couple of sections) wouldn’t have been written.Notice how, in “Strategy,” one gets a sense of a ball being batted back and forth. “Winning,” meanwhile, almost operates as a Zen meditation.
I don’t know that I agree with Pinsky’s advice to always wear white, however.
By Robert Pinsky
Hit to the weakness. All things being equal,
Hit crosscourt rather than down the line, because
If you hit crosscourt back to him, then he
Can only hit back toward you (crosscourt)
Or parallel to you (down the line) but never
Away from you, the way that you can hit
Away from him if he hits down the line.
Besides, the net is lowest in the middle,
The court itself is longest corner-to-corner,
So that a crosscourt stroke is the most secure,
And that should be your plan, the plan you need
For winning . . .
Call questionable balls his way, not yours:
You lose the point but have your concentration,
The grail of self-respect. Wear white. Mind losing.
Walk, never run, between points: it will save
Your breath, and hypnotize him, and he may think
That you are tired, until your terrible
Swift sword amazes him. By understanding
Your body, you will conquer your fatigue.
By understanding your desire to win
And all your other desires, you will conquer
Discouragement. And you will conquer distraction
By understanding the world, and all its parts.