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Baseline bard: Wimbledon serves up poetry ace

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Grandest of slams
  • Matt Harvey has been appointed Wimbledon's first official poet
  • Harvey will write a poem every day of the two-week grand slam
  • The public can Tweet him lines of poetry during the tournament
  • Harvey will be reciting poems to those in the long queue for tickets

(CNN) -- The Wimbledon tennis championships provide two weeks of pure sporting theatre permeated with tears, tantrums, comebacks, upsets, joy, despair, strawberries and cream.

So, perhaps the only surprise attached to the appointment of an ace poet to cover the tournament is that it wasn't served up sooner in its rich 133-year history.

Matt Harvey has been chosen as top seed -- a baseline bard who will pen a poem for every day of the two-week grand slam, chronicling the sights and sounds of south west London into a series of soulful sonnets.

A regular contributor to BBC radio and a self-confessed Wimbledon obsessive, Harvey is already salivating at the prospect of trawling the sprawling site in SW19.

He told CNN: "It's just fantastic to be given such access to the place and the people. I've already spent time there before the lines have been painted and in the museum, and it has been fascinating. I even got to sit in the umpire's chair on Centre Court and had to pinch myself.

"When it starts I imagine I'll be wandering about in the background. I'll have to respond to the things people will be talking about, like if a pigeon is shredded by Roger Federer's racket -- not that I wish ill of any pigeons, or Federer's racket for that matter.

"I will also have to touch upon the traditions like strawberries and cream and Cliff Richard, and also the new addition of the roof -- welcoming people to the Wimbledome.

"The attention I've had since it was announced just makes me realize how much everybody loves it. I'm not the icing on the cake for Wimbledon, but hopefully I can be one of the many hundreds of thousands on the icing that's on the cake."

I will have to touch upon the traditional Wimbledon things, like strawberries and cream and Cliff Richard.
--Matt Harvey, Wimbledon poet

Poetry has a permanent presence at Wimbledon, the immortal lines "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same," from Rudyard Kipling's poem 'If' adorning the players' entrance to Centre Court.

Harvey's task is to follow in those feted footsteps and compose an original work for each one of the 14 days of Wimbledon. So where will he draw his inspiration from?

He explained: "I'll be getting there early and experiencing Wimbledon before people get in and the change when they do arrive -- and I'll probably go and recite some poems to people in the queue too.

"Wimbledon has such a rich history to draw on too. I can write about the fact that in the olden days women had to wear corsets and the like, which meant their clothes weighed three times more than the men.

"Or about the 1905 champion, May Sutton, who caused a stir by rolling her sleeves up above the elbow and wearing a dress that showed her ankles.

"There are also a bunch of racket stringers who sit in a little hut at Wimbledon where the players take their rackets to be tuned to their specifications.

"Plus, the Queen is going to be there for the first time since the silver jubilee in 1977, when Virginia Wade won the women's title, so there is enough to write about without even mentioning the on-court action."

Harvey's poems will be available on the official Wimbledon and Poetry Trust Web sites, and he'll be blogging throughout the tournament.

He'll also have his very own Twitter page, meaning punters can embrace their poetic side by Tweeting suggestions during the tournament.

He explained: "I do a bit in my live show where members of the audience write a line of poetry on a scrap of paper and they always fit together better than people think, so I'll be inviting people to Tweet me some pithy lines and hopefully we can do the same thing.

"Twitter is limited to 140 characters but you may just be able to fit a couplet in there."

To follow Matt Harvey's poems during the tournament visit the Wimbledon or Poetry Trust Web sites.