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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Odes on Ali: A Tribute to the Greatest is a collection of sports poetry written by David A. Bates. Bates introduces his work with an autobiographical account of his personal recollections of Ali's bouts as well as what he calls Ali's "pre-fight antics", and he shows why Ali should be considered, in many ways, the first of the rappers. He also discusses Ali's conversion to Islam and the efforts made by the draft board to induct him into the military despite his refusal to do so based upon his religious beliefs. After this introduction, Bates presents his collection of odes which cover every one of Ali's bouts in chronological order. Each poem is composed of four-line stanzas with the second and fourth lines having rhyming ends. The final poem sums up Ali's career and subsequent public service.
David A. Bates' collection of sports poetry, Odes on Ali: A Tribute to the Greatest, may be viewed with some initial skepticism by those readers who love sports writing, but I'm hoping they can suspend their disbelief just long enough to read Bates' brilliant introduction and one single poem. I’m convinced that one poem will render them as incapable of not continuing to read this most amazing recreation of Ali's career as if they had been rendered powerless by a tap from the legendary champ himself. These poems kept me spellbound as I followed Ali's progress from those initial bouts to winning and regaining his hard-earned title and through to his retirement. There's drama, action and suspense in every line as Bates' careful choices of words and rigorous adherence to the structure of his poems give each line power and real, you-are-there authenticity.
I had a marvelous time reading Odes on Ali and literally could not stop smiling the whole way through. While I was familiar with many of Ali’s major bouts, there was still so much to learn, so many bouts that I hadn't known about. These poems put the reader right there in the ring, watching the action as closely as if they were in front row seats. Yes, I was a bit skeptical when I saw the format of this work, but that introduction and first poem had me hooked, and I'm so glad they did. Odes on Ali: A Tribute to the Greatest is an original and most impressive book of sports writing and an outstanding collection of poetry all at once. It's most highly recommended.