He pelting stars, he pelting the sun
He skipping stones to Buckingham Palace
He pelt down the gold mango
from the tallest tree,
as I pelt this pen to the sky.
The Crown Prince of Pelters
Scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday I stumbled across a poem by a Canadian based Trinidadian-Bahamian poet, Christian Campbell, called The Crown Prince of Pelters. Under the poem Campbell comments that “A group of poets were commissioned to write sports poems for young people (11-16) by the Cambridge Caribbean Project/Commonwealth Education Trust.” Campbell goes on to say that his poem, along with other sports poems by other poets, have been published in an anthology called Give the Ball to the Poet: A New Anthology of Caribbean Poetry.
The poem was written for Keshorn Walcott, a Trinidadian javelin thrower, who is the first black male athlete to win Gold in a throwing event at the Olympics.
Below Campbell’s comment is a photo of Keshorn Walcott in a stadium leaning back on his right leg. His left arm pointed towards the sky with the left hand looking like an arrowhead, while his right hand is drawn back with the javelin; poised to pelt/throw.
This juxtaposition of sports and art, the conversation between Campbell’s poem and Walcott’s poise, reminded me of Trinidadian writer and intellectual C.L.R. James and his work, Beyond A Boundary (1963). James portrayed cricket as being more than a sport, but as legitimate viewfinder for looking at things like culture, class, race and the effects of colonialism.
I haven’t read it years, but what stuck with me is the idea of cricket being an art form. Not only does James lovingly illustrate for the reader the swing of the batsman or the motion of the bowler, but he also connects everything back to Ancient Greek dramas and the interaction between the audience and the players/actors, who are emotionally invested in the spectacle that they have come to witness.
In Campbell’s poem the javelin thrower is transformed into a performance artist, traversing and overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. However, for me, the interesting part of the poem is the last three lines in the final stanza, “He pelt down the gold mango/from the tallest tree,/as I pelt this pen to the sky.” Here it seems that the poet/the artist is carried away by his own emotional investment and transforms into something more than a poet, or maybe the poet and athlete become one.
I’m not a big fan of sports, but I do think it’s interesting to think of them as having some underlying social importance.