Matt Harvey becomes the All England Club’s first writer in residence after tournament organisers team up with Poetry Trust
Previous Wimbledon tennis champions may have been motivated to greatness by the rousing passage from Rudyard Kipling’s If inscribed above the players’ entrance to Centre Court.
But players inspired by the words “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same” now have a new muse, after Matt Harvey’s appointment as the Championships’ first official poet.
Harvey will produce a poem a day throughout the fortnight as the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club follows Heathrow airport and Marks & Spencer in embracing the vogue for writers in residence.
Kipling’s 1899 masterpiece may be a daunting act to follow, but Harvey, who will produce a poem a day throughout the fortnight and is a regular on Radio 4’s Saturday Live, will be doing his best to capture the flavour of the event, with verses published online and in special podcasts.
Expect themes to include strawberries, queues, the rain and, undoubtedly, the traditional Centre Court tantrum.
Copyright Matt Harvey, The Championships Poet 2010
Harvey, who has already written his first poem as Championships Poet 2010, called Grandest of Slams, said he was thrilled but nervous at his appointment.
“Quite simply I’m delighted, with a little bit of healthy anxiety thrown in,” he admitted. “It’s an honour, and I’m acutely conscious it’s the only time I’ll come first in anything at Wimbledon, unless you count the queue for strawberries.”
The new role has been created as a result of Wimbledon teaming up with the Poetry Trust.
Harvey’s poems will feature on the trust’s website, – at thepoetrytrust.org and at wimbledon.org, the official Wimbledon site.
Harvey, whose new role came about after Wimbledon teamed up with the Poetry Trust, will keep a blog and talk to fans via Twitter.
He will also recite his poems to the queues waiting to enter the club, though Centre Court’s new roof will deny him the chance to upstage Sir Cliff Richard in the rain-tertainment stakes.
Honor Godfrey, curator of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum which proposed the concept, said: “We are always examining different ways of interpreting the Championships and this year the club agreed that having an official Championships Poet would provide a novel and interesting way of doing this.”
Naomi Jaffa, director of the Poetry Trust, said: “We couldn’t be more thrilled and excited – for Matt, who’s a poet we’re so proud to champion, and for the tennis-loving millions around the world who’ll be surprised and delighted, we hope, by some truly ace poems.”
The Grandest of Slams
Excuse me. I’m sorry. I speak as an
For the game of lawn tennis there’s no
better symbol than Wimbledon,
The place where the game’s flame was
sparked and then kindled in,
Where so many spines have sat straight
and then tingled in
Where strawberries and cream have
traditionally been sampled in,
Kids’ eyes have lit up and their cheeks
have been dimpled in
Where tough tennis cookies have
cracked and then crumbled in,
Top seeds have stumbled, have
tumbled, been humbled in
Where home-grown heroes’ hopes have
swelled up and then dwindled in
The Grand Slams’ best of breed – it’s the
whizz, it’s the biz,
The temple where physics expresses
There’s one word for tennis and that
one word is