My earliest in-the-flesh footy was local footy. Country footy. When I was about seven I used to ride my bike to the magnificent Princess Park at Shepparton and hang around under the levy bank or along the wing as the sounds of footy reverberated around the stands of towering gums. I stood with the townsfolk in the three quarter time huddle. Lemnos’s huddle.
Over the years I have collected footy poetry (more on that later this week when I introduce Damian Balassone’s new book). I used those footy poems in schools.
Kids related to the footy in it, although it is more complex than that (in a way I fond very encouraging). Kids tend to bring a negative prejudice to poetry; a prejudice which, in my experience, is easily overcome if you present things to students in a way which engages them. Kids tend to have a positive prejudice about footy. So presenting them with footy poetry might be seen as tricking them into appreciating the poems. What became very clear in using footy poetry for upper-level high school students, though, was that it was not the footy that was winning the kids over, it was actually the poetry, and the nature of the poetic.
Some of the poems I have used are by the late Phil Hodgins who, sadly died of leukaemia at the age of 37. He was a star. Perhaps I can dig out his series on the different kicks in footy. (Vin Maskell probably knows them off by heart). We have used the final lines of Philip Hodgins wonderful poem “Country Football” as an epigraph in our new book Footy Town. I love the whole poem. The sow image is superb with all of its inference of sustenance. That’s writing! I hope you enjoy it.
by Philip Hodgins
The ellipse, Hindu symbol of fertility,
is flanked by crowded cars
nosing up to the rails.
It suckles like a sow.
Inside the cars voices report
From significant, never been there places –
Kardinia, Moorabbin, Windy Hill.
Reflecting each other from the cusps
rise two-dimensional white cathedrals.
Today they will be temples to apostasy
Their entrances are guarded by clones
Whose torches blaze pure white.
From corrugated iron purgatory
Many men feed out in lines like
limbs varnished with an intoxicating wake
of eucalyptus oil.
Landing near afflatus
they disperse into pairs
of cryptic numerical combinations.
But one without a number,
as resolutely white as the cue ball,
omnipotent in a classical pose,
holds aloft a red ellipse
and whistles up
a terrible trumpeting of motor horns
for this afternoon’s do or die.
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