Two combatants, one ring, and a battle governed as much by determination and drive as by rules and referees: that’s boxing. Perfect in Their Art: Poems on Boxing from Homer to Ali spans the millennia to present more than one hundred of the finest in pugilism poetry from both oral and written traditions, celebrating the lasting literary, historical, and cultural significance of boxing’s storied heritage.
Editors Robert Hedin and Michael Waters pulled no punches in assembling the definitive poems and poets of the sport. Works by such classical poets as Homer, Virgil, and Pindar are gathered here side-by-side for the first time with the poems of Lord Byron, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This provocative collection also features more recent literary heavyweights, including Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Levine, Wislawa Szymborska, Ai, Yusef Komunyakaa, James Merrill, and Norman Mailer. Equally impressive is this anthology’s rich sampling of boxing music, including ballads, blues, marches, waltzes, and pop lyrics. Irving Berlin, Memphis Minnie, Leadbelly, Paul Simon, Warren Zevon, and Bob Dylan are only a few of the songwriters in this volume compelled to honor the sweet science.
Complemented by a foreword from On the Waterfront author Budd Schulberg, Perfect in Their Art offers glimpses into the boxing ring’s literal and metaphoric place as a popular stage for brutal but artful combat. Together these poems celebrate the heroes and traditions of this most primal competition across its many eras to provide an accurate, graceful, and spirited evocation of boxing’s cultural legacy as both sport and art.