Thursday, 5 January 2012

Is there no end to Phil Liggett's talent?

Ever since I first saw The Atomic Cafe I've been a fan of "found art", and one of my Christmas presents this year was a collection of  "found poetry" called Dancing on the Pedals. It was compiled by Doug Donaldson, a former contributor to Bicycling, and contains gems drawn from the commentary of 'Uncle' Phil Liggett.
The tall, tanned one is Phil Liggett. The short, hoppy one is not Paul Sherwen.
Check these out:
Riders fall and need
wheels replaced
by helpers from their team cars.
Dust gets into the riders'
lungs as much.
But still,
the speed of the race 
is relentless.

All The News Fit To Ride
Newspapers up the jersey
keep the wind out
and get ready for the long flight down.
No parachutes will be issued.

Spanish Flier
That is amazing
now he hits the cobble hill
and dances
is dancing away too
to big gains
in the Tour De France today.

Calling it poetry is slightly tongue in cheek, of course, but funnily enough, it does neatly satisfy two of my admittedly uninformed criteria for good poetry: it's far more expressive than its minimal word count would lead you to expect, and it provokes an emotional response. 

You could argue that any chunk of speech could be chopped into mismatched lines to remove the rhythms of speech and replace them with the rhythms of poetry, but to test that theory I've just sat through David Duffield's commentary on the 1999 and 1990 editions of Paris-Roubaix, and nothing he says quite works the way Ligget's words do. Look:

David Duffield on Paris-Roubaix
Getting in towards the final fifteen kilometres of this race and still 
this little group are still in the lead. 
The crowds out on the side of the road cheering them all the way to the finish. 
Urging on the various people they want to win this.
 Is it going to be a win for France?

It doesn't work, does it? Don't get me wrong, I used to enjoy David Duffield's rambling commentary (I always wondered if he had an annual bet against Channel 4/ITV's Paul Sherwen to see who could get away with broadcasting the largest verbatim chunk of Tour's roadbook), but his commentary is clearly more prose than poetry, whereas Phil Liggett gives you crackers like this:

Rolling Thunder
This is something special today
the storms that appeared to blow in,
                                                 blew out    
at least as far as the weather is concerned.
The storm is all down there. 
On the highway.

Anyway, you can get the book here. In the meantime, what are the chances of getting Phil Liggett added to the GCSE syllabus?

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