By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
THE DAVID ORTIZ POEM
In last week’s Musing I included a verse on David Ortiz whose number was retired by the
Red Sox on Friday night.
Like most of the other verses I’ve done, especially those on the Red Sox, it was written
more to be recited than read. I have a grand time reciting the pieces at various events in
and around Fenway Park and throughout the community.
They are my oxygen. They keep the creative juices flowing, and they keep me engaged.
They keep me young.
People often ask how long it takes me to write them. The answer is, sometimes it comes
easily, sometimes not so much. Finding the rhymes isn’t as tough as finding the rhythm. I
always try to keep in mind how a verse will sound when recited, what the music of it will
The hard part comes after the writing - learning them. You’ve got to have them down
cold before reciting them to an audience.
In the old days, when I’d often do television commentaries in verse form, I’d be able to
look them over a few times then recite them on camera. But they were pre-taped, so if I
went up on a line I could do it over again. Hundreds of thousands of people might see
them when they aired but I wasn’t reciting them in front of a live audience, just a
cameraman who I knew was there to protect me, to make me look good. Also, that was
forty years ago. One’s fastball tends to lose a little pop as the years go by.
Nowadays it might take just a few hours to write a verse and then a few weeks before I’m
ready to recite it before an audience. You can’t let yourself be distracted by unexpected
things like a waiter dropping a tray or a toddler escaping from its parents, or a hundred
other things. Once you’ve started a verse you’ve got to see it through to the end. Like a
juggler or a trapeze artist in the circus, the trick is making it look easy.
Which brings us back to the Ortiz poem. It’s turned out be a real crowd pleaser so I
include it just about every time I’m reciting Red Sox poems for a crowd. Just about
everyone around the Red Sox had seen me recite it – except for David Ortiz. During the
season he had ballgames every night and in the off-season he was often in the Dominican
Republic. Then, one night earlier this season, we both attended a fund raising event in
one of Fenway Park’s luxury suites. I couldn’t wait so see what his reaction would be.
I was introduced and launched into the poem. But, sure enough, the unexpected
happened. Ortiz wasn’t paying any attention. He was preoccupied signing a baseball.
When I looked over and noticed him I knew couldn’t stop the recitation and neither could
I let his preoccupation rattle me. I had to redouble my efforts to get him focused, which
happened about halfway through the poem. Here is the video of how it all played out.