Saturday, November 13, 2010

John Ansell’s NZ cricket poems

In early 2003 I went along to poetry nights at the Angus Inn in Lower Hutt and Selby’s Poetry Café in Porirua. On these nights a poet called John Ansell would get up to read in the Open Mic. His poems brought the house down. With a measured reading voice and superb comic timing, his nonsense rhymes struck an immediate chord with listeners. Very soon he was the guest poet himself and people were asking for copies of his poems.
I was delighted when John later collected his rhymes in book form. His book, I Think the Clouds Are Cotton Wool, came out near the end of that year in November 2003. I even bought extra copies of it to give to friends at Christmas time.
The book includes a great section called ‘Thoughts on Sports’ with witty observations on cricket and rugby. The cricket poems, which were originally written as radio ads, were of particular interest to me, and I included John in A Tingling Catch. ‘Cricket Initials’ (John's contribution to A Tingling Catch) was read by John at the launch of the book at the Basin Long Room. It has a neat use of the stumps as an image in the poem.
‘Cricket Initials’ was one of 16 radio ads made in 1992 during Shell’s sponsorship of cricket on Radio New Zealand. The voice John cast was Jim Hopkins, so they called the series Hopkins’ Half Minute. Each of the poem-ads mentioned the sponsor Shell with some improvisation by Jim Hopkins in the studio.
Here’s the other two cricket-related poem-ads that John wrote:


Cricket is a Funny Game

Cricket is a funny game,
For who'd believe a tale
Where a pointy stick is called a stump,
And a stumpy one, a bail?

And it gets much more confusing, folks,
For nowhere but in cricket
Could a set of sticks
And a grassy strip
Both be called a wicket.

These wickets of the greener kind
Are also known as pitches,
Which is also what the ball does
When it bounces on its stitches.

So what's it all about folks?
And where's this poem headed?
And why is it that the last three words
Are Shell Ultra Unleaded?

Cricket is for the Birds

A cricket is a species of insect, much enjoyed by birds. Which suggests that cricket is for the birds. And it is.
  I mean, where else can a Crowe go in for a bat and get out for a duck – often given out by an umpire called Dickie Bird?
  Now of course, before a Dickie Bird can become an umpire, it must first come out of its Shell. Which is what you should be coming out of if you’ve just been buying petrol.
  A petrel is another kind of dickie bird, but it doesn't give a toss about cricket. So I won’t mention it.

Author's Note: An ornithological (not to mention apoetical) collaboration, where I supplied the Crowe, the bat and the duck, Jim Hopkins weighed in with the Dickie Bird, the petrol and the petrel, and Shell brought the money.

'Cricket is a Funny Game' and 'Cricket is for the Birds' © John Ansell, 2003

(from I Think the Clouds Are Cotton Wool, Padded Sell: Porirua, 2003)

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