I gave a poetry reading at the Sport Literature Association Conference this past week, on 6/20/18, in Lawrence, Kansas. My presentation was titled “Baseball Poems / Baseball Images” — some previously published, some newer. My reading of the poems was accompanied by a series of images, sometimes meant to illustrate aspects of the texts, but sometimes in conversation with them. It went over well, I think, going on the response I got.
I was also glad to see that many of the papers presented took an overt political stance, including one that foregrounded Eduardo Galeano on soccer and politics. Further papers analyzed racial discrimination, gender bias, and/or intersections of capitalism in sports, among other topics. While one could easily have imagined the frequent indulgence in nostalgia, this was really not the case here, and the insights generated proved fruitful. What is the point of literary criticism if it does not actually engage with the real-life problems of the world? Then it is merely, as they say, “art for art’s sake” (though perhaps there’s occasional merit in that too?). And especially in the arena of sports, which has always been a political arena, to stand on the sidelines and not to choose sides would be to my mind to abnegate our responsibility as thinkers and artists. This was my first time at this conference, and I was encouraged by it.