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PUTTING ENGLISH ON THE BALL

By Dan Baldwin |

Sports When discussing the great poets of our century, literary critics generally don’t ask whether Ezra Pound had
three-point range. Nor do NBA scouts rate prospects on their handling of rhyme and symbolism. (“Sorry, Nate, we’re
looking for somebody who can give us some iambic pentameter near the basket.”)

If the twain is ever going to meet, it could be in ALEX ENGLISH, the newest Dallas Maverick. In addition to
scoring more than 24,000 points in his 14-year NBA career, starring with Gregory Peck in a feature film (Amazing
Grace and Chuck),
and writing an autobiography, the former Denver star has published three volumes of poetry.

An English major (what else?) at the University of South Carolina, English published his first book, Sometimey
Feelins Sometime,
in 1979. The poems here are warm and playful. While some barely rise above greeting card
status, others are, well, poetry-that is, language used to explore love, life, and self. English shows a tendency to
open up and take some risks in content and technique. His witty “For The Love Of Heat” shows both:



The doctor told me to bathe

in your hot love,

and I told him that

that’s what burn’t

me the first time.



In the parlance of hoops, English’s latest collection, If Show You My Tenderness (1986). fails to show that
the writer has developed his game. Though the book itself is remarkably handsome and the writing slicker, only a few
of the poems penetrate the surface. For every time English hits with an apt metaphor (as when he describes himself
as a note on nature’s music sheet, or “an unbelievably happy face in her audience”), he tosses up a brick like this
one:



There’s

nothing like travel

to broaden one’s

approach and outlook

on life.



Perhaps English can draw startling new insights from his 53rd trip to the Detroit Hilton, but if he’s going to write
about it, we need more than this. Still, there’s proof here that English knows English, and knows how to use it.