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Read Golf Poetry Out Loud!

[Note: the picture is of Billy Collins, a former United States Poet Laureate and an avid golfer. If you ever have the chance to hear Professor Collins read his poetry out loud (he has two CDs out), you will be convinced quicky that poetry must be read out loud to be fully enjoyed.]

Though it is hard for me to believe, I have now been writing this Blog for almost two years. The Blog now includes more than 100 Posts and close to 100 golf poems. The good news is that golfers interested in finding poetry about golf are finding this site. The Blog has recorded more than 37,000 page views. The bad news is that the Blog is 100 years late in getting started. As I have mentioned in these pages, golf poetry was routinely included in all the golf magazines published early in the 20th century. And books of golf poetry were bought and enjoyed. Moreover, poetry was recited at club meetings by poetry writing members.

My purpose in writing this Blog has been to make this golf poetry of the past (and a few poems of the present) available to a generation of golfers who have had no access to this literature. But poetry, different than prose, puts an extra demand on its readers: it asks that you read it out loud. Though you are easily convinced that yelling “Fore” is a good idea when an errant ball is hit, you may be less sure about the value of reading poetry out loud. Even more so, when you rarely come across any kind of poetry, let alone golf poetry. So my only hope of convincing you may be  to write a poem with the right incentive:

READ GOLF POETRY OUT LOUD

Read golf poetry out loud,
It will lower your score;
And if one poem doesn’t do it,
Read two or three more!

If you believe all of those equipment ads, maybe this poem will work as well. But if not, search around the Blog and find a poem that appeals to you…and then gather up your courage and read it out loud. Maybe even more than once. I hope this exercise will convince you that reading poetry out loud adds greatly to your understanding and enjoyment of the poem. If you are inclined, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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Announcing Golfiana Press and its First Book

George Fullerton Carnegie, “The Poet Laureate of St. Andrews” in an earlier Post, collected several of his poems in a book he called “Golfiana – or Niceties Connected with the Game of Golf.” The book was first published privately in 1833. Carnegie dedicated his poetic effort to “Members of all Golfing Clubs, and to those of St. Andrews and North Berwick in particular.”

I am happy to announce the start of a new publishing venture,  Golfiana Press, which has been established to once again make gift books featuring historical golf poetry available to golfers everywhere. The first book to be published by Golfiana Press will be Golf Course of Rhymes – Links Between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages (Foreword by Robert Trent Jones, Jr.). Golf Course of Rhymes will be available on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles mid-April, 2011. I will keep you up to date through this Blog and my Tweets.

Golf Course of Rhymes is laid out like a golf course. It begins with a Practice Tee (the Introduction); continues with 18 Holes (Chapters), each with a name that describes its content or theme; and ends at the19th Hole where the reader can relax after “playing” the course. Distinct from an anthology, a typical hole, in addition to humorous and poignant verses, includes stories and comments that put the poems in context.

The Course includes Holes with names such as “St. Andrews,” “Agonies and Frustrations,” “Great and Not So Great Moments,” “Golf Dreams” and “The Women’s Game.” The fanciful fairways and greens contain the works of more than 45 poets including Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, “the late Sheriff Logan,” Charles “Chick” Evans, Sarah Cleghorn, Grantland Rice and Ring Lardner. A majority of the 100 plus poems come from little known books and magazines published in America, England and Scotland before 1930.

Please stay tuned!

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An Australian Golf Poem from 1897

Last week I received an email from a friend from the Netherlands who was kind enough to forward to me this week’s poem, “The Wreck of the Golfer.” The poem was written by Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson (1864 – 1941), a famous Australian poet, journalist and author. One of Paterson’s most famous poems is “Waltzing Matilda,” which was set to music and became one of Australian’s most famous songs. Paterson’s image appeared on an Australian postage stamp in 1981 and today graces Australia’s 10 dollar note.

Without some background, “The Wreck of the Golfer” makes strange reading. But once it is understand that the poem is a parody of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Wreck of the Hesperus,” (1842) then at least we can understand its structure and ending. Longfellow’s poem begins,

It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintery sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
To bear him company.

You can read the entire poem at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Wreck_of_the_Hesperus. Paterson’s poem is as follows:

The Wreck of the Golfer

It was the Bondi golfing man
 Drove off from the golf house tee,
 And he had taken his little daughter
 To bear him company.

 "Oh, Father, why do you swing the club
 And flourish it such a lot?"
 "You watch it fly o'er the fences high!"
 And he tried with a brassey shot.

 "Oh, Father, why did you hit the fence
 Just there where the brambles twine?"
 And the father he answered never a word,
 But he got on the green in nine.

 "Oh, Father, hark from behind those trees,
 What dismal yells arrive!"
 "'Tis a man I ween on the second green,
 And I've landed him with my drive."

 "Oh, Father, why does the poor Chinee
 Fall down on his knees and cry?"
 "He taketh me for his Excellency,
 And he thinks once hit twice shy."

 So on they fared to the waterhole,
 And he drove with a lot of dash,
 But his balls full soon in the dread lagoon
 Fell down with a woeful splash.

 "Oh, Father, why do you beat the sand
 Till it flies like the carded wool?"
 And the father he answered never a word,
 For his heart was much too full.

 "Oh, Father, why are they shouting 'fore'
 And screaming so lustily?"
 But the father he answered never a word,
 A pallid corpse was he.

 For a well-swung drive on the back of his head
 Had landed and laid him low.
 Lord save us all from a fate like this
 When next to the links we go.

The Sydney Mail, 4 September 1897

As a reference point, the first golf club in Australia, the Australian Golf Club in Sydney, was established in 1882. However, Paterson’s relationship to golf has yet to be determined. I have written to a researcher in Australia and if she turns up something I will pass it on.   Any comments regarding Paterson’s links to golf would be appreciated.

In the mean time, we have our first historic golf poem from Australia.

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Poetry From The Golfer Magazine, 1897

I just found this unsigned poem in the “Notes by the Wayside” section of the October 1897 issue of The Golfer magazine (offices at 154 Pearl St., Boston). It’s a little late chronologically, but still timely.

OCTOBER’S HERE

October’s here: I hear her tread,
Upon the hilltops, glad and free;
And also in my weary head,
I have a cold that’s killing me.

October’s here: but I don’t care,
I still get in my game;
I care not for the air so rare
Nor do I look for fame.

October’s here: but what of that,
Why prate I of the weather;
My only thought is now of what
My score’ll be altogether.

October’s here: her robes are red,
And yellow, sprinkled thick with gems;
The summer days have surely fled,
The talk is now of Repubs and Dems.

A month before in the same section of The Golfer:

SONG OF THE LINKS

Newport, Lenox, Lakewood,
Saratoga, Troy,
York Harbor and Knollwood,
Long Branch, Pomeroy.

Richfield Springs, Saranac,
Stamford, Hallowell,
Seabright, Bath, Pontiac,
Greenwich, New Rochelle.

Bar Harbor, Shelter Islands,
Ardsley, Asburee,
Larchmont, Atlantic Highlands,
Manchester-by-the-Sea.

How many of these courses still exist?

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