From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

When we learned a few days ago that poet Matt Harvey had signed on as the official poet of this year's tennis championship at Wimbledon, we imagined that the first laureate of lawn tennis would have his hands full with Serena and Venus or with Federer and Nadal.

SIEGEL: Instead, the great historic event this week has turned out to be something completely unforeseen. American John Isner today won a match that stretched over three days, taking the final set 70 to 68 from a French qualifier whose name we were assured by a French sportswriter is Nicholas Mahut, which is much harder to rhyme than Nicholas Mahut, which is what it looks like. Matt Harvey joins us now from Wimbledon. Thanks a lot for joining us.

Mr. MATT HARVEY (Poet): Hello, it's a pleasure to be here, thank you.

SIEGEL: And I'd like to ask you: How much of that colossally long match did you get to actually watch?

Mr. HARVEY: I watched about 20 games of it live yesterday. And I found it emotionally so intense, I actually stepped away for a bit and completely lost my place and decided to go in and watch it on the television, and I found it almost unbearable.

And as it unfolded, I felt, this is awful. This is wrong. This is - what are we doing to these men, making them do this for our entertainment? But it was - it was extraordinary.

SIEGEL: You felt that you were sort of at the Coliseum in Rome or something like that?

Mr. HARVEY: I did. I did feel like a Roman citizen would understand what's going on here.

SIEGEL: Okay, the longest match in Wimbledon history, if not in human history, has transpired. And your job is to write a poem about it.

Mr. HARVEY: I thought - I woke up this morning and I thought, this is the longest game in history. What it really calls for is the shortest poetic form. What we need here is haiku.

SIEGEL: Haiku about the epic struggle that unfolded.

Mr. HARVEY: About the epic struggle. I was just thinking - this was before it finished, and I thought, yeah, Isner v. Mahut haiku. And I started writing haiku on the train as I came in. I only want to tell you one of them.


Mr. HARVEY: Because what I realize is I want to put a call out for people to tweet haiku to @wimbledonpoet. I want to make a collective effort of haiku.

SIEGEL: Okay, then you must set a good example right now with yours.

Mr. HARVEY: Here we are. Here we go. High performance play. All day and yet no climax. It's tantric tennis.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: It's tantric tennis.

Mr. HARVEY: That was my little haiku. I was actually not exactly criticized but questioned for the first Wimbledon poem I put out, which was a little bit of an epic in that I wrote a whole game of tennis in an onomatopoeic style, which the crowds here are allowing me to read to them in its full glory. But when I do a radio slot, they say, just give us a tiny bit, Matt.

SIEGEL: Yeah, you do read these poems at Wimbledon, yes?

Mr. HARVEY: I do. I read them on Wimbledon Radio, and I've been really - I read to people on Henman Hill, or Murray Mound, as, you know, there's a little bit of a dispute as to what that hill is called. And I've also gone out and I've read to the queue, whove been very generous.

SIEGEL: The people as we would say lining up to get into the...

Mr. HARVEY: Yeah, the people lining up. I mean, it's a very, very long line.

SIEGEL: And people, as they're waiting to enter, appreciate hearing a poem read to them?

Mr. HARVEY: You know, they don't really have a choice.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Well, it's sounds like the best audience a poet could possibly ask for.

Mr. HARVEY: Absolutely. I explained to them beforehand, I say this is poetry appreciation. This is included in the price of your ticket. It's part of the price that you pay. So if you walk away from me now, you lose your place in the queue. It's up to you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Okay, well Matt Harvey, official championships poet at Wimbledon. Thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. HARVEY: Thank you, it's a pleasure.

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