Poetry Yes. But not the “Bad” Kind

Photo credit in the lower right hand corner
Photo credit in the lower right hand corner


Like a number of people I was up early watching Liege – Bastogne – Liege. I made two doubles of espresso during the (yes) boring neutralized portions. I had a brief dream of Sanchez winning when he attacked, because he’s a fun rider to watch, but I also let out a (a tame, because Signe was still asleep) call for Dan Martin to go! (not in caps because I was trying to be quiet.)

I’m not sure why I was excited to see a Martin win, given the “clean” team’s recent shenanigans with xenon gas and allowing Ryder to sit on his doping confession till it was legally safe for him to do so. But he seems a likeable guy, and his attack was solid and while some riders, like Valverde, may leave a bad taste in mouth, I still like exciting attacks and good racing, regardless of who it comes from. So I, like many others watching the race with a cup of joe and watching the race in their sweat pants, was a bit disappointed when Dan rolled a tubular/broke a chain/threw his chain/clipped his pedal/slid out/crashed on a pen/had just plain bad luck.

This is bike racing.

I understand why the bulk of the cycling part of my twitter feed was centered around why Martin may have crashed, but I’m a little dismayed that it is still a thing to be gone over twenty-four hours later. He crashed. It may have cost him the race. Gerrans may have pipped him at the line. Who knows. Martin certainly doesn’t. The press doesn’t. Let’s not ruin the drama of the moment by digging around, looking for pens or oil slicks. Those are conditions of the race, and as Martin himself put it, “It’s poetry”

I don’t know if Martin’s bookshelves are stuffed with copies of Auden, Larkin, Keats, Yeats and cummings. Maybe he was implying that all poetry is bad. Who knows. One thing is clear. Velonews thinks bad poetry has no rhyme.

“For Martin, it’s the bad kind, with neither rhyme nor reason.”

A few years ago the cycling writer Herbie Sykes was nice enough to let me bother him via email. The gist of his response to my questions about writing was this: Don’t read cycling, because for the most part the quality is terrible.

Obviously I think bike racing is like life/ is like poetry and poetry doesn’t always have to rhyme. Poetry, much like bike racing, has change a lot since The Bard’s Sonnets. Some would argue it’s better, when broken of form. Just like when a rider shows some guts and attacks.

We grumble and moan when riders don’t attack. Just sit and wait to collect points instead of taking a risky run for the line. We should expect more for the media as well. Stay away from lame tropes.

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