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Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy Reveals Olympic Poem 'Eton Manor': But Is It A Winner?

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Carol Ann Duffy reading her new poem 'Eton Manor'
Carol Ann Duffy reading her new poem 'Eton Manor'

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has given the first reading of her London 2012 poem to members of a historic sports club that was founded at the Olympic Park site.

A guest list of Eton Manor Association members listened to the reading at Eton Manor Rugby Football Club.

The poem - Eton Manor - has the same name the newly built Olympic Park venue which will host wheelchair tennis and swimming training during the Games.

It was created as part of the Olympic Delivery Authority's Art in the Park Programme and Winning Words, a national poetry scheme inspired by London 2012.

The poem notes the site's sporting history and future use as a new home for tennis and hockey after the Games.

The venue was once the home of the Eton Manor Boy's Club, a community facility founded at the beginning of the 20th century.

The club had gained a reputation as an elite sporting association by the 1950s.

Demolition of the disused sports hall began in December 2006 and it was the first building on the Olympic Park to be knocked down. Building work began in early 2010.

ODA chairman Sir John Armitt said Ms Duffy had "honoured the Eton Manor Association with her thoughtful contribution".

Ms Duffy said: "The original Olympics involved poetry as well as sport, celebrating the wholeness of human endeavour.

"I think it is very good they are echoing the early spirit of the Olympics, as it would be a shame not to bring the arts into people's focus.

"I think it makes us healthier, as well as our running, jumping and marvellous physical achievements, to look more internally at art, music and poetry."

Eton Manor by Carol Ann Duffy

"The past is all around us, in the air,
the acres here were once 'the Wilderness'-
"Blimey, it's fit for a millionaire"-
where Eton Manor Boys Club came to train;
or, in the Clubhouse, (built 1913)
translated poverty to self-esteem,
camaraderie, and optimism similed in smiles.

Hackney Wick-
fleas, flies, bin-lids, Clarnico's Jam; the poor
enclosed by railway, marshland, factories, canal-
where Wellesley, Villiers, Wagg, Cadogan came,
philanthropists, to clear a glorious space;
connect the power of place to human hope,
through World War One, the Blitz, till 1967...
on this spot, functional, free, real- heaven.

This is legacy-
young lives respected, cherished, valued, helped
to sprint, swim, bowl, box, play, excel, belong;
believe community is self in multitude-
the way the past still dedicates to us
its distant, present light. The same high sky,
same East End moon, above this reclaimed wilderness,
where relay boys are raced by running ghosts."

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