post

A Golf Poem by Herbert Warren Wind!

Herbert Warren Wind, golf writer

After the U.S. Open Championship ends as it did so dramatically last Sunday, you might look forward to what the pundits on the Golf Channel or in the newspapers, golf magazines and blogs have to say.  Years ago, if you followed golf faithfully, you waited patiently for Herbert Warren Wind’s New Yorker article. And you were never disappointed. Wind, who graduated from Yale University, and earned a Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Cambridge, began writing for the New Yorker in 1941. He covered the major golf tournaments for the magazine from 1960 to 1990 when he retired, a period when television coverage was for the most part still limited.

Wind often wrote in the first person and his reports always described the scenes he witnessed most vividly. For example, writing about the 1956 Open at the Olympic Club, at a point soon after television coverage had ended by proclaiming Hogan champion,

            “In the clubhouse—how sharp the picture remains!—Hogan sat slumped before his locker, patiently answering the questions of the press but sidestepping all congratulations with the reminder that his victory was not yet official, since some players were still out on the course.”

Later in the same paragraph,

“The news that filtered in was not hard and exact, but [Jack] Fleck was reported to have parred the thirteenth and bogeyed the fourteenth. Now, to tie he would have to birdie two of the last four holes. It was at about that time that I decided to get out on the course again.”

Catching up with Fleck on the par-3 fifteenth hole, Wind continued,

“As I was trying to find elbowroom in the crowd, a galvanic shout went up. Fleck, a frenzied man informed me, had holed from 9 feet for a 2. Now all he had to do was birdie one of the last three holes—not that this would be easy.”

With Wind’s retirement golf writing took a hit from which it may never recover.

As far as I knew, Wind confined himself to prose, so I was surprised to learn (from Bill Scheft, a Wind nephew) that Wind’s first contribution to the New Yorker was a poem. With Scheft’s help I found the poem on the last page of Herbert Warren Wind’s Golf Book. I offer it more as an historical artifact than great poetry. Wind’s prose will more than suffice.

Upbringing

The elevator man’s son counts:
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,14 and so on.
And sometimes mezzanine.

The porter’s son counts by fives:
5,10,15, and carry one, 15,20,25, and carry two. Or
By tens should speed require.

The agent’s son counts by fractions:
1-1/10, 2-1/10, 3-1/10, and so on.
He does it in his bean.

The golfer’s son counts:
1,2,3,fore,5,6,7. And balks
At counting any higher.

Advertisements
post

Golf Poetry – Who Wrote it; Who Reads It (Part 2)

In 1886 David Jackson, the Captain of the Thistle Golf Club in Scotland, published a 32 page tract of poems and songs at the “repeated request of many members of my own and other Clubs.” Earlier in 1833, George Fullerton Carnegie privately published a long poem called “The Golfiad” which he dedicated the “Members of all Golfing Clubs, and to those of St. Andrews and North Berwick in particular.” They were his readers.

In the first 30 years or so of the 20th century, the audience for golf poetry expanded. The poetry appeared in golf magazines in both the United Kingdom and the United States and in a few newspapers as well.  A number of (real) books of golf poetry were also published But after about 1930, golf poetry lost its place as a part of the literature of golf and all but disappeared. As Grantland Rice saw it, “…good poets suddenly disappeared and readers for some reason lost the old poetic zest.” It may also be that movies, radio and other sources of entertainment began to attract audiences away from poetry in general.

Today poets struggles to attract an audience and golf poetry has few serious adherents. But we can, with the help of the internet, libraries and the digital reprinting of out-of-print books, rediscover the golf poetry of the past, which is what I have attempted to do with this Blog and my book Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages. And happily a number of readers have responded.

With the help of WordPress.com, my Blog host, I can tell you that golf poetry today enjoys a wider audience than ever before. Poetry on this Blog has been read (and hopefully enjoyed) by readers in more than 70 countries. Leading the list are the countries most associated with golf’s history, the United States (54% of the page views), the United Kingdom (21%), Canada (6%) and Australia (3.3%). But all of the continents have contributed viewers and the Blog has even had four page views from Iceland and two from Belarus! Page views in total for the three plus years of this Blog have passed 67,000.

Reading and even more so, reciting golf poetry is a new experience for most of today’s golfers. So, if it’s new for you, why not begin by reciting the last four lines from one of David Jackson’s poems, “Gouff Dings A’” loosely translated as “Golf Surpasses All,”

Then, let us swell the mighty throng of Princes, Lords, and Kings
Who have enjoyed the game of Golf above all other things
And wish success to every one, let him be great or sma’,
Who loves the jolly game o’ Gouff–for Gouff dings a’. 

 And sometimes poetry dings prose.

%d bloggers like this: