picks up his story and here we go…

TBTL- picks up his story and here we go... Tehran Tennis by Roger Sedarat

Few would associate tennis with Iran, but despite its failure to produce dominant world players (in part because of its political history), for me the country remains the point of origin for a game over which I’ve become more than a little obsessed. The causes of a recreation player’s love of tennis might seem boring. (Just ask my wife and kids, who have banned me from all tennis references at the dinner table). Upon reflection, however, my self-interrogation leads to some insights about family, the Persian character, and the complex psychology of this rather demanding sport.

Though I’ve written the first formal collection of poetry about tennis, the thought of discussing the subject in prose proves more than a little daunting. My Iranian father played on a college team, and despite my begging him, he refused throughout my childhood to show me anything on court. No doubt he had his reasons, much like he did for sharing very little about his life in the old country. I don’t blame him, but it has left me with little to reference as I explore my background. Add to this his transferring from a school in Nebraska where he first played on a tennis team to Illinois State University.

This brings me, by association, to David Foster Wallace. He was born, like me, in the Bloomington-Normal area, and taught at ISU for some time. Though a formidable player himself, his writing about tennis proves critically incomparable. For me, it seems almost as pointless to try writing about the sport after him as it did for Adorno to write poetry after the Holocaust. Despite such anxieties of influence, tennis players and writers have to persevere, publishing their own books and committing to their own tennis game regardless of preexisting greatness…

The Sufi Tennis Player

His right arm raised like a dervish
in old days of the Persian court
he smacks a serve with so much spin
the ball’s a blurry whirl of whoosh
the racket hammer thwacked
in Rumi’s marketplace staccato
footwork baseline squeaks
dances to net angles of tension
played from a place beyond
knowing through training
clinics coaches agony
of wins and losses the ball
reduced to petty ego netted
over-headed unforced errors
(the goddamn sun without a visor!)
until new game set match
backhand back in the zone
of easy shots and aces
“Wilson” stamped across the ball
transcendent as a mystic’s prayer.

From Foot Faults: Tennis Poems, by Roger Sedarat
(David Robert Books, forthcoming)

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