Friday, January 25, 2008

Poetry Friday: Wrestling with Poetry

I'm cheating (just a tiny bit) today. Liz and I have this whole "Exercise of Writing" week going on, and I need it and Poetry Friday to play nice together. So, I'm giving you some poetic excerpts from one of my favorite books about sports (and so much more):

(This is the paperback cover.
I own the hardback, which looks quite different.)

Wrestling Sturbridge was Rich Wallace's first book, and he's gone on to write many more. But when I met him at the Highlights Foundation Writer's Workshop at Chautauqua, he had just published this strong debut novel, with blurbs on the back from the likes of Robert Cormier, Jerry Spinelli, and Chris Crutcher. (It also received starred reviews from Booklist and Publisher's Weekly, and was noted by ALA as a Quick Pick and a Best Book for Young Adults.) He's still on the Writer's Workshop faculty today, so catch him there, if you can.

You would think that I (a girl) would not like a book (about a boy) that features a sport (wrestling) that I've never attempted, but you would be wrong (arm twisted behind your back wrong.) I love this story, and one reason is the short poetic lists that are interspersed throughout the book. Here's one:

Things I've done twice:

* pinned Al (seventh grade)

* told my father to go to hell

* read Conditioning for Wrestling: The Iowa Way

Things I haven't:

* left home for four days

* been suspended from school for
telling a teacher to kiss my ass

* had sex

And here's one more:

What happens before a match (in this order):

* diarrhea and mood swings

* a kind of prayer where you curse at
God and beat yourself up, then tell
God you're sorry and he says it's okay

* a concentrated sense of focus

What doesn't:

* you don't joke around with anybody

* you don't resign yourself to losing

* you never say it doesn't matter what

Maybe Rich Wallace didn't think of those brief interludes as poetry. But I choose to.

Poetry Friday is hosted today at Mentor Texts & More. Come play.


  1. I can definitely see the poetic side of those. It probably doesn't matter if he intended them as poems or not as long as you perceive them that way.

  2. I like the contrasts between have/haven't and happens/doesn't. The space in between holds another message. That's poetry.

  3. I can see why these lists appeal to you. As presented, they have a certain impact that would be lost otherwise.

  4. Wow. That's some focus, and I love the idea of a kid having this kind of mental relationship. Sounds like an awesome novel. Admittedly the only "sport" novels I've read have mostly been Crutcher, but I'm expanding my horizons.

  5. Yeah, I love "you never say it doesn't matter what happens." At first I thought: what a BOY thing to say! But then, I knew he was right. You should not say that, not if you don't mean it, because it's just lying, lying to yourself.

  6. I met Rich at Chautauqua, too, in 2003, I think. What year were you there? He read from this in a workshop and I came home and checked it out and really liked it, too. Even though it's not a book that would ever entice me to pick it up off the shelf!

  7. I can't believe you have intrigued me enough to make me possibly read a book about wrestling!


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