Thursday, October 29, 2009

Losing Season Scores a Win

I just finished reading the poetry collection Losing Season by Jack Ridl--named by the Institute of International Sport as one of the most influential sports educators in American. Jack was my poetry professor at Hope College, and I was so excited that his book was being published (CavanKerry Press) because I loved his last collection, Broken Symmetry. Losing Season follows a high school basketball team through their terrible winning drought, and is told through the voice of the Coach, the bench-warmer, Coach's wife, the assistant coach and the equipment man.

One of my favorite parts comes in the poem "Scub," which is about the bench-warmer:

Sometimes, after practice,
I walk home slowly, and I
think about letting the ball
bounce away. Then I'd
sit down, let my mind
open up wider and wider,
so wide the sky would
come inside, the stars
would light it all.

Ridl's focus on the small things--walking home after practice, the memories people keep, feeding the birds or coming home to one's wife--is what keeps this collection moving. While at times, the topic is bleak (the team is losing! losing! losing!), Ridl's clear, concise poetry keeps the book from getting muddled with despair. It's a great read, even if you're not a big sports fan (like me!), because this book is about more than sports: hope, living up to expectations, perseverance, letting people down, and holding on to the moments that mean the most.

Follow Jack Ridl on twitter.
Listen to Jack read from Losing Season on NPR's Only a Game (around 25:00).

L. Stacks

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