Thursday, 5 November 2009

The poetry of Dennis Bergkamp / poetry and winning

All day with poetry mentee, Nick, up from London. These are long intense sessions and quite tiring by the end for both. We talk about detail but also about ideas, about distinctions between performance and private reading, about range, about poetics and grace. Nick is an Arsenal supporter. He was asked recently what he would be if he weren't a poet? A poet was what he wanted to be, he insisted.

But let's put it another way, I say. If you were forbidden to be a poet but had to choose between being Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henri, Emanuel Adebayor or Martin Keown which would you be? And this makes sense because there are certain qualities associated with these individuals that can be identified with aesthetic values.

Could we throw in Dennis Bergkamp? he asks.

Certainly, I say. So he could aspire to be the Dennis Bergkamp of poetry.

We could just as easily play the party game where we try to guess which person someone is thinking of by asking questions like: If X were a car which car would X be? Or a city? Or a tree? Or anything. There are qualities in all things we quickly learn to associate with whatever we desire, need, or aspire to.

Good friend Ed, the philosopher, was writing a paper on beauty and goalkeepers. He was talking about beauty in the moment of the great save. I doubted - partly out of mischief - whether one could build a case about beauty entirely predicated on given moments of a competitive sport where the main idea was not to perform acts of beauty but to win. Isn't winning the point of the game?

No, he replied, not necessarily. I go to Arsenal to see beauty, he said.

The question is not so much whether I believe him, though I am tempted to, but whether he would say the same of a QPR match. Ed has been a QPR supporter for many years. I wouldn't, I say to myself, accept the answer that QPR should win by playing beautifully. He would have to maintain that it wouldn't matter if they lost - and kept losing - providing they played beautifully.

But then I am hoping he would stick to his guns and say it didn't matter. In fact I am hoping I myself would say it. Of whatever I cared deeply about.


Poet in Residence said...

Ah, the beautiful game as Pele called it. And it was the beautiful game when it was played with panache and skill; the running, the passing, the control, the vision, the ball doing most of the work. But then move the camera to an English winter and a bollocking of rain on a quagmire of mud. Yes, there's a kind of sentimental beauty there too, or there was; the Lowry landscape, the cup of Oxo, the cloth cap brigade drawing on loose tobacco, the long march home to tea and the evening's Football Pink in the glow of the hearth. There's too much money in the game now. The beauty stands in the players car park. I wanted to be Jack Kelsey the goalie when I was a sprog.

ps- George, your quote about a fat black fly heads my blog for next few days. Hope you don't mind.

Vita Brevis said...

"I go to Arsenal to see beauty, he said."

I must admit I find Arsène Wenger v_e_r_y sexy looking :)

George S said...

I think thats off-side, Vita Brevis. I can see the linesman waving.

I think it may actually be Ruud Gullit you are secretly looking for. Here:

Just beware of Ray Stubbs... :)

Ed Winters said...

The beauty of the game - as Arsenal currently play it - cannot be shaken free of the attempt that the team make to win. The beauty and the struggle are internally related, so to speak. (Internal relations are notoriously infernal.) You cannot make sense of what the team is doing in the first place unless you understand the attempt to score goals at the same time as protect your goal from your opponents. So if it is 'beautiful football', the beauty must embed itself in the attempt to win.

However, I think I might get away with this: If a team were continually and invariably to play football and lose, it could not be playing beautiful football. If it played the kind of football that 'ought' to win games, then, even on occasions where it didn't win, it could still be deemed to be playing beautiful football. I suppose it would be something like the exception that proves the rule.

One problemn I foresee with this view is that any team that continually and invariably played football that was not beautiful would not be playing good football and would not be entitled to win.

There was, we shall remember, a team like this in the not too distant past - Boring , boring, Arsenal - who won the league whilst attracting the soubriquet 'Natural Born Nil-Nillers.'

George S said...

Could a team be playing "pretty football" and lose?

Then the distinction is between pretty and beautiful in a given form, such as a game, such as football.

Or could we say that beauty might comprise an element of tragedy, so losing might be part of beauty too?

Beautiful losers (Leonard Cohen). Romeo and Juliet. Might Romeo and Juliet be less beautiful if the lovers didn't die?