Friday, October 8, 2021

out now! rhyme & rhythm poems for student athletes

Welcome once again to Poetry Friday!  If you're unfamiliar, you can go here to learn more, and please do consider plunging in and bringing your fresh face to the conversation! 

And now, please join me in celebrating the belated book birthday of RHYME & RHYTHM: POEMS FOR STUDENTS ATHLETES!!!


This anthology was pulled together by Dr. Sarah J. Donovan of Ethical ELA fame, and it features established and emerging poets--including three of us Inklings--waxing poetic about high school sports.

Just as Tabatha Yeatts's IMPERFECT anthology has hit a sweet--or bittersweet, or sour--spot of need and sold 3,500 copies (prompting her to collect another similar anthology about keeping perspective), RHYME & RHYTHM goes very specifically where no YA poetry anthology has gone before: into locker rooms and pools, onto ice rinks, football fields and basketball courts, and even into the dim gym of a school dance.


                                      To read the rest of the poem, buy the book here, or click here.


My poem, excerpted above, is one of the few written in rhyme and meter; most are free verse or invented forms, and there are several which are prose poems.  The list of contributing poets includes Mary E. Cronin, Zetta Elliott, Linda Mitchell, Laura Shovan, Margaret Simon, Padma Ventrakaman and many others whose work you will enjoy getting to know.

The poems range widely across sports but also across the emotional experience of playing sports.  A frequent theme is the thrill of participation, the simple enjoyment of exertion and skill, colored by  other aspects of our identities as humans. So often what could be a universal pleasure is interrupted by self- and other-judgments about having bodies of particular sizes, shapes and shades, lacking means or family support, bearing pressure and expectations.

We do what turns out to be a strange thing here in the U.S.--we build athletics into the school experience rather than letting school focus on academics, rather than keeping sports a separate pursuit for away-from-school hours. (I read an article about this which I now can't find, related to Amanda Ripley's work.) The idea of "student athletes" becomes a curious one when you realize how uncommon it is elsewhere.  

The poems in this anthology, taken together, call our approach to athletics into question and leave me wondering where the pure pleasure of play is, that we all need for healthy, creative bodies and minds.

RHYME & RHYTHM is currently only available through the Mojo sales platform from Archer Publishing, which designed the book and illustrated it with stock photos. We hope it will soon be carried through more bookstores online.

Thanks to Irene at Live Your Poem for rounding us up today!


  1. I love the excerpt from your poem Heidi, and really appreciate your overview of this anthology. Congratulations! You are in some wonderful company.

  2. As a cleatless gal, I can really appreciate this poem. :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the book and sports in schools, too. I have a niece and a nephew, both in high school, and both hugely involved in their chosen sport (soccer and cycling, respectively). I love talking to them about it, and maybe they'd enjoy these poems?? I'm going to find out! xo

  3. Since my granddaughters both love sports but in very different ways, I think I will need to get this one, Heidi. It is interesting to read of the US approach versus other countries, though the older granddaughter's 'arts' school does not offer sports. Those kids must find other ways to 'do' if they wish. The focus is on academics. Your poem's dancing rhythm is fabulous! Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Oh, I love the idea of a poetry anthology for athletics! Though I'm 99% skill-free sportswise, I'm here for the dance moves! Here's to the cleatless.

  5. Hooray! What a great review of this anthology. I have yet to pull mine together. But, I will soon. I love that student athletes now have poems just for them. Love that you have "lindy-hop" in a poem. Brilliant!

  6. Fabulous! Yes, this poem had to rhyme! (And yay to see other familiar names in the list.)

  7. Heidi, wow! What a beauty this is. I love every word, beat and rhythm of your Cleatless poem. It dances through the reading. It really is brilliant, and such a joy to see it published in this anthology. Looking forward to purchasing the book, and it's so fun that some of my friends are in the collection.

  8. I just love the movement in your poem--the infectious beat and rhythm. It's a delight to read aloud and full of all the wonders that make up Heidi-writing. Congratulations again to you and to all the other poets involved in creating this exciting new anthology.

  9. What a wonderful idea for a collection! Congrats on your curvy, lively poem’s inclusion. And appreciated, as I was always active but not athletically coordinated… ;0). (Still true!)

  10. You are so right in your musings about sports. I was a grown woman before I found any pleasure at all in sports, because in school it was all about competition and I couldn't compete in that arena. So I stuck to academics, as though you have to choose. The poem is wonderful too!

  11. I love your poem, but like Ruth, also your musings about sports. I worry that the competition we see in the adult world is sown and fertilized in school sports. And where does it leave those of us who were/are "cleatless"?


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!