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July 27, 2012

Poetry Friday--Poetry & the Olympics

The American team, which took part in the 5th Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden in 1912. Perhaps the one in the in the turtleneck is on the poetry team? Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Today's the beginning of a two week extravaganza known as the Summer Olympics. It is a celebration of sports and also of poetry! The mayor of London, Boris Johnson wrote, and will recite, in both ancient Greek and English, this poem celebrating the Olympics.
Ode for the London Olympics 2012

This new Olympic flame behold,
that once burned bright in Greece of old;
with happy hearts receive once more
these Games revived on London's shore.

Praise rival teams, in sport allied,
as athletes stream from far and wide;
the poet too must take the road
conveying praise to victory owed.

Millions of watchers will embrace
the passion of each close-­run race,
the efforts of the rowing teams
and gymnasts balancing on beams.

They will observe with rapt delight
the archer draw his bowstring tight,
the skilful rider guide her horse,
and lightning bolt around the course.

The pipes will play, the drum resound,
as medallists are daily crowned;
the crowd's hurrah will reach the skies
when victors hoist the golden prize.

Now welcome to this sea­‐girt land,
with London's Mayor and co. at hand.
Good luck to all who strive to win:
applaud, and let the Games begin!

Courtesy BBC News.
More on 2012 Olympic poetry can be read in this Huffington Post article and on the London2012 site. A New York Times article provides a more historical look at poetry and the Olympic games.

Here is a marvelous quote by Carol Ann Duffy, the British Poet Laureate, "The original Olympics involved poetry as well as sport, celebrating the wholeness of human endeavour. I think it is very good they are echoing the early spirit of the Olympics, as it would be a shame not to bring the arts into people’s focus. I think it makes us healthier, as well as our running, jumping and marvellous physical achievements, to look more internally at art, music and poetry."

Join the Poetry Friday team warming up at Life Is Better With Books. In the coming week, exercise your poetry muscles with a summer sports poem and join me back here next Friday to share.


  1. Great post to get us all in the spirit, Diane! Thanks. Re. "Perhaps the one in the in the turtleneck is on the poetry team?" - too funny. ;0)

  2. My kids are so excited for the start of the games!
    It would be awesome if there was still arts involved in the olympics....

  3. That photo is priceless, Diane. Poetry Guy is nice but for some reason I am drawn to the young man at the end - with the X-Marks-The-Spot jersey. That X is so not 2012/Ralph Lauren! Can't wait to see the Diving competitions - my favorite of all the summer games.

  4. Robyn, I once attended a local writers' conference and half the attendees were dressed in black turtlenecks. Turtlenecks are such a cliché!

  5. Well, I am quite impressed that the mayor wrote this and is reciting in two languages. Wow! Thanks for sharing this--I love the opening stanza especially, and the sea-girt land.

  6. Hi, Diane. Thanks for sharing this poem. Wow, I want a poetry-writing mayor! We just got back from London. It was fascinating to see the preparations -- from the airport to the lack of homeless on the streets. I had to wonder what the government did with all of the street people.

  7. I'm watching the beginning even as I read the wonderful poem, Diane. I wonder how many of our leaders write poetry, but never get to share it, or even think it's possible? It's so exciting to think about these Olympics. Thank you for the great photo too. I loved the movie "chariots of fire" & watch the games as much as I can.

  8. A. I want a mayor who writes poetry.
    B. I want a mayor who recites poetry.
    C. I want a mayor who can (and DOES) recite his poetry in two languages.
    D. Sigh...

  9. Imagine if every town had a poetry-writing mayor! Better yet, every country in the world! The only conflict there'd be would be over the Oxford comma. Enjoy the games everyone!

  10. Thanks for all the interesting links connecting the Olympics with poetry. It makes the games a whole lot richer when we're aware of the cultural heritage that they represent!

    (And thanks for the whimsical "Preschool Art" that arrived in my mailbox this week. What a treat--to get poems delivered by the postman!)

  11. Violet, thanks for your swap poem, too. I like your choice of language, regurgitated regrets and of writhing, bubbling/red-hot inspiration, and your use of the volcano metaphor. As the British say, "Brilliant!"

  12. nice; there was a reading from Shakepear's Tempest; enjoyed the grand openng endng with Paul Mc Carthy's "Hey Jude"

    much love...