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After Bill Littlefield spoke with Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim about his children's book "The Rookie Bookie," Wertheim took over the microphone and interviewed Bill about his new book of sports-themed poetry for children, "Take Me Out."
JW: As anyone who's done these book publicity tours knows, the first throwaway question you often get is, "What made you want to write this book?" But in this case, I'm authentically curious. This is a book of sports poetry that's very deftly delivered. But whatever motivated you to do this Bill?
BL: It was purely fun. I've been writing doggerel for a long time, and I thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to provide something in the vein of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein that parents and kids might enjoy reading together?" And then my publisher said, "Hey, c'mon — this is for parents, even if the kids are in the other room." So, I hope it works for both of them.
JW: It's funny you mention something different. Because you think about it — sports has these biblical themes and games have meter and rhythm, and there's sort of all these elements that lend themselves to verse. Are you surprised that the overlap between sports and poetry isn't denser?
BL: Well, you know, it starts with Homer as far as I know. He wrote about boxing and he was pretty good, a pretty good poet. But you're right, there is a lot of stuff and it ranges from genuinely good poetry, in some cases, to "Casey at the Bat," on the other end of the spectrum. So, I feel like perhaps I have made a small place for myself in a grand tradition.
JW: This book also is this great blend of sort of whimsy but also some more serious themes. And I'm curious, I kept thinking about how you executed this just as a matter of process. I mean not being a poet by profession, did you say, "Here's my day. I'm going to write about basketball today." Or were these works that you came back to over the course of a few days like a crossword puzzle? How did this work especially as someone who doesn't do this as a day job?
[sidebar title="A Poem From 'Take Me Out'" width="630" align="right"] Read the poem "What Racers Do" from Bill Littlefield's "Take Me Out." [/sidebar]BL: Well, first of all, they were written over a long period of time. This book began to take shape some years ago. And I would write one and have some fun with it and hand it to my wife across the kitchen table, and she'd say, "Hey this is pretty good. Why don't you do some more?" And I think she had in mind that there might actually finally be a book. And lo and behold, that's what happened.
JW: Bill, do you have something from "Take Me Out" you could read for us right now?
BL: Yeah, I would like to read one that perhaps speaks to the way that, as a culture, we tend to take sports too seriously and encourage, especially young boys, to take sports too seriously at too early an age. This one is called, "Mom, I'm Gonna Be A Star:"
Mom, I'm gonna be a star,
I love you child for what you are,
But I will make a million dollars,
Generating hoots and hollers,
All the fans will shout my name.
Maybe child, and all the same,
I will love you all my days,
If you do or don't win praise.
Mom, I'll build a house for you,
And it'll have an ocean view.
That my child, would be quite grand.
Now sit with me, and hold my hand,
And know, in case you don't succeed,
It's time for you to learn to read.
Learn more, read an excerpt and buy a copy at the Take Me Out Amazon.com page here.
This segment aired on November 1, 2014.
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