Poet Marianne Moore meets Muhammad Ali: “I’m a poet, too!” he said.

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They decided to write a sonnet together…

A meeting between poet Marianne Moore and legendary Muhammad Ali, who died today. They had been introduced by George PlimptonThe historic rendezvous took place at Toots Shor’s in Manhattan. Here’s the story over at “Such Stuff“:

She made a confused, pleased gesture and then had a sip of her tea. He ordered a bowl of beef soup and a phone. He announced that if she was the greatest poetess in the country, the two of them should produce something together — “I am a poet, too,” he said — a joint effort sonnet, it was to be, with each of them doing alternate lines. Miss Moore nodded vaguely. Ali was very much the more decisive of the pair, picking not only the form but also the topic: “Mrs. Moore and I are going to write a sonnet about my upcoming fight in Houston with Ernie Terrell,” he proclaimed to the table. “Mrs. Moore and I will show the world with this great poem who is who and what is what and who is going to win.”

“We will call it ‘A Poem on the Annihilation of Ernie Terrell,’ ” Miss Moore announced. “Let us be serious but not grim.”

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What rhymes with “hell”?

“She’s cute,” Ali commented.

A pen was produced. Ali was given a menu on which to write. He started off with half the first line — “After we defeat” — and asked Miss Moore to write in Ernie Terrell (which she misspelled “Ernie Tyrell” in her spidery script) just to get her “warmed up.” He wrote most of the second line — “He will catch nothing” — handing the pen over and expecting Miss Moore to fill in the obvious rhyme, and he was quite surprised when she did not. She made some scratchy squiggles on the paper to get the ink flowing properly. The fighter peered over her shoulder.

“What’s that say?” he asked.

“It doesn’t say anything. You could call them ‘preliminaries.’ Terrell should rhyme nicely with ‘bell,’ Miss Moore said tentatively. I could see her lips move as she fussed with possibilities. Finally, Ali leaned over and whispered to her, ” ‘but hell,’ Mrs. Moore.”

Read the whole thing here.


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