...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

July 25, 2006

Wednesday is Poetry Day: Phil Liggett and Found Poetry

(I'm going to continue not taking poetry too seriously. Everything should be laughed at sometime.)

Just as Andres Cantor is The Voice of futból to the Spanish-speaking world, Phil Liggett is The Voice of cycling to the English speaking world. If you ever watch a major race on OLN, odds are it wil be called by Phil Liggett (and his partner, Paul-somebody, but who cares about him?).

It's not his accent or his almost-encyclopeadic knowledge of cycling that makes him The Voice, nor is it his interaction with Paul while announcing a race. It's the words he chooses and the cadence at which he speaks, along with the emotion he brings to his commentating. It almost sounds like...well, like poetry.

Probably because it is. Good poetry conveys emotion as well as meaning, and there is emotion in his voice and in his word choice that can relate more to you than just mere words do. And by laying those words out in a form common to poetry, you have Found Poetry.

Sometime last year, Doug Donaldson collected a boatload of Liggett quotes, broke them up from prose into stanzas, broke the stanzas further with some e.e. cummings-like layouts, and collected them into a book entitled Dancing on the Pedals: The Found Poetry of Phil Liggett, The Voice of Cycling. Yeah, found poetry that's a bitch of a lot of fun to read.

(Please note the multiple periods in two of the following poems are not part of the poems as published. They're necessary to simulate the formatting of the poem. Yeah, my HTML skillz are wanting.)

............. Come to Paris
....................... The
....................... Eiffel
...................... Tower
................... didn't throw
..................... a shadow
............. over this .... race for
.......... the man .......... in Yellow
Stage 23, 1986

I love the way the layout of the words bring to mind an image of the Eiffell Tower. Lewis Carroll used a similar format in The Mouse's Tale, setting the words so that they form a picture of the subject. Beautiful.

Room Service
The Yellow Jersey will go to his hotel,
his room.
Stage 10, 2000

In three simple lines, using eleven lonely words, Mr. Liggett captures the solitude the leader of the race must feel. It is, indeed, lonely at the top.

Finally, Mr. Liggett gives us his version of a tragic epic poem:

Eck Aced I
No attacks of note all day
And now we're onto the Champs-Elysées and
The attacks have started.
Viatcheslav Ekimov, former world champion of the amateurs
.... and now, of course, the defending world champion
.... very shortly
.... if he rides in the world championship of the pursuit
.... over five thousand meters.
Let's just see how fast he is here.
This is a tremendous race for the line.
The field are boring down on him
he's got a real good chance though.
He winds it up.
.... He won a stage like this last year
.... when he went in the last couple of kilometers.
He keeps looking over his shoulder
that's an elementary mistake
.... when you're out in front
.... you don't look where the rest are
.... because there isn't much you can do about them.
You just go as fast as you can.
Across the Place de Concorde here, now, over the cobble-
he'll flick right very shortly then he'll see the finish here
and he looks good;
he looks really good
Ekimov could be picking off one of the most coveted stages
in any Tour de France
.... to win on the Champs-Elysées.
Stage 21, 1992
Ekimov will lose to teammate
Olaf Ludwig

Oh, the tragedy! Ekimov struggles mightily, but it's all for naught: Not until the poem is over do we learn Ekimov did not win the stage!

UPDATE: annika has posted Found Poetry in the past! I still prefer Phil Liggett's.

Posted by Victor, Jul. 25, 2006 | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Poetry


I love the cycling commentary, and this made my morning. Thanks.

Posted by: Hugo on Jul. 26, 2006

This is good stuff, Victor.

Maybe you need to stick to poetry only.

Posted by: shelly on Jul. 26, 2006

"Everything should be laughed at sometime."


The Constitution?


Pearl Harbor?





Posted by: Stephen Macklin on Jul. 26, 2006

Geez, Stephen, stop and smell the roses sometime.

Posted by: Victor on Jul. 26, 2006

Now roses I can laugh at.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin on Jul. 26, 2006

Stephen... I take it you didn't enjoy Team America then...

And now that I've mentioned the movie I can't stop giggling.

America! F*ck yeah!

And just in case you're going to accuse me of being politically one-sided in the humor I appreciate, they also make fun of Rent with a song about how everyone has AIDS. Freakin' hilarious.

Posted by: The Law Fairy on Jul. 26, 2006

Never saw the movie. From what I know of it, I am sure I would like it.

I am not generally a humorless curmudgeon. That one line just struck me the wrong way on the wrong day. Struck me enough that I couldn't ignore and move on to the next blog on the list without commenting.

But I'm over it now!

Posted by: Stephen Macklin on Jul. 27, 2006