The poetry of football (1): Dave Martin, bard of Torquay United
This all started with an irritable comment on Twitter from me, complaining about the bias of the home commentator during the livestream of the FA Trophy football match between Sutton United and Woking. There quickly came back a tweet from staunch Torquay United fan Dave Martin, directing me to his poem all about the subject on the Football Poets website. His lament, posted just a month ago, includes these lines:
It’s not easy being a live streamer,
not easy at all,
when hapless camera crews seem
incapable of following the ball
or wiping rain drops from the lens
while we can see nothing at all
or zoom so far from the action
we could be up a mountain in Nepal.
You could definitely describe Dave as a committed football poet. He has been a fan of Torquay United - currently well clear at the top of the National League - for over 50 years, was the club’s official Bard for the 2018-19 season, with a poem in every matchday programme, and has a chapbook available, Come On You Yellows, of 17 football poems, some specific to Torquay, at a very reasonable price of £2.70.
Dave said of his poetic involvement with the club he loves: “It all started with Rob Casey, the Bard of Exeter City. He is one of the poets who runs Apothecary, an open mic in Bridport. I had sat in the ground at Plainmoor and then written ‘Match Night’, my first football poem combining two of my loves. Later I wrote three more poems about some of the characters mentioned in that first poem. Then I read these at Apothecary, chatted to Rob afterwards, and he suggested I contact Torquay. I thought this was a good idea, contacted them and they were up for it.”
It should also be said that Dave is far more than just a football poet, noble though that calling is. His poetry has been published elsewhere, in Orbis, South, The New European, and online at The Poetry Village. He is also a historian, has written a number of textbooks, and has just completed Cast Bronze Reputations, a book about the cultural significance of historical statues.
But back to the Football Poets website, which has been going for, ahem, even longer than Write Out Loud. In a separate interview its founder Crispin Thomas – motto ‘Swapping Shirts with Shakespeare’ - recounts the amazement he and others felt at its immediate popularity, and how even during lockdown fans are making their feelings known in poetry. Its current featured poem is ‘Bird in Hand’ by Portsmouth fan Richard Williams, who read another of his football poems, ‘Followers’, with religious intensity and wearing his Pompey football shirt at Write Out Loud Woking last month.
Meanwhile the National Football Museum’s poet-in-residence, Paul Cookson, is just about to publish a new volume of poetry – a collection of Covid poems which inevitably includes one or two football-related ones. Here are a few lines from ‘Some People Are On the Pitch …’, about football’s current empty stadiums, which references Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous shout as the ref blew his whistle at the end of the 1966 World Cup final:
Just the sound of these few men
No volume, roar or row
We dreamed of stadia full of crowds
But alas, it’s not allowed
We thought it was all over
….. It isn’t now
Dave Martin, Come On You Yellows, Salter Press, £2.70
(for a copy message Dave on Twitter @DaveMartin46)