In a December post entitled “Two Down, One to Go” I wrote about my three goals in writing ODES ON ALI: A TRIBUTE TO THE GREATEST. They were: complete a publishable manuscript, get it published while Muhammad Ali was still with us, and to get a copy to Mr. and Mrs. Ali. In a follow-up post, “Working On One To Go,” I wrote about locating an address for Mr. and Mrs. Ali and packaging up and sending off a copy. I noted in the post I had gotten back a signed return receipt from the address. While I didn’t recognize the name of the individual who signed for the package, I was still hoping at some point to get some type of acknowledgement from Mr. and Mrs. Ali. Bearing in mind the massive amounts of correspondence they must receive, I put any expectation on a back burner and moved on. Then, while speaking on my book at Miami Dade College on Friday, a lady in attendance asked if I had tried to get a copy to Ali and, if so, had I been successful and/or heard from him. I relayed to her the information above and told her I still was holding on to hope to hear back from them. Upon returning home after the speaking event Friday I retrieved the day’s mail. Standing out among the various white business envelopes of the solicitors and bill collectors was a deep pink, greeting card-type envelope. It had no return name and a not immediately familiar return address in Arizona. I put the mail aside as I went about putting away the things I had taken with me to the speaking engagement. My mind was still reflecting on the event I had just returned from, but my curiosity had been piqued as to the contents of that deep pink envelope. I retrieved and opened the envelope then pulled out the card inside. The face of the card was of a deep pink blooming flower on a turquoise background. As I gazed upon the elegant, elongated handwriting that began with Dear Mr. Bates, and started reading what had been written, it slowly began to sink in what I was holding. The opening thank you for sending Muhammad the wonderful tribute book that I wrote sufficiently fulfilled any and all expectations I held for a response. But then continuing with they were enjoying several evenings a week reading passages from my book, and that Muhammad was thoroughly enjoying hearing the rhythm and rhyme of my poetry, just blew me away. And then just as I thought the smile on my face couldn’t spread any wider, thanking me for thinking of Muhammad and bringing joy and smiles to his day, I felt the corners of my mouth stretch to new heights. Turning to the back of the card it was signed, All my best, Lonnie Ali. I am eternally grateful to Mrs. Ali for taking the time to respond. I hope she doesn’t mind my sharing of her correspondence. It is by far the highlight of my long journey to the completion of a tribute to the greatest fighter of all time and someone I have held the utmost respect and admiration for from my earliest memories. To know that I have been able to bring even one moment of joy to a man who has provided me with too many to count makes this book a success and my long, winding road to publication worth every effort along the way. I am truly grateful for, and humbled by, her words. For her to take the time to respond means more to me than she’ll ever know. I wish for nothing but days filled with joy and smiles for both her and the champ. They deserve nothing less.
I want to thank again Mr. Carlton Daley and the members of the TRIO program at Miami Dade College (North Campus) for inviting me to speak to their members, in conjunction with Black History Month, about my book Odes On Ali: A Tribute to the Greatest. Their gracious welcome, courtesy, respect, and interest in my presentation was greatly appreciated. I look forward to any and all of their future feedback on my book. I also look forward to someday reading the future works of all the aspiring writers who were in attendance. In my next post (probably tomorrow) I can’t wait to share the pleasant surprise that was waiting for me when I returned home afterwards.
I am thrilled to announce that in conjunction with Black History Month, I have been invited to speak about “ODES ON ALI: A TRIBUTE TO THE GREATEST” at Miami Dade College (North Campus) with a book signing afterwards. The date is next Friday, February 19th, at 1 pm. If your in the Miami area that day drop by. The address is 11380 NW 27th Ave. The room number for the event is 1264. That’s all the detail I have at this time but will post any additional information as soon as it’s received. Hope to see you there.
I was recently asked if I would speak about my book at a local college. This got me thinking about what I would talk about. Sure, Writing 101 is to write what you know and what you’re passionate about. But also high on a writer’s priority list is choosing a subject and an angle with broad appeal. After all, both are key to a writer’s success. More interest from more people means more sales. As stated in the author profile on the back of my book, I penned my first poetic account of an Ali fight after his shocking victory over George Foreman. It also states it was well received by all who read it then. What it doesn’t state is how I noticed the difference in compliments offered on the piece. Men were drawn in by the fact that it was about the sport of boxing. They commented on the realistic description of the action and of Ali’s antics and bravado. Women seemed to appreciate more the artistic expression, the pace, style, flow, and rhyme pattern. Being that it all was important to what I was trying to achieve, I was appreciative for them all. But over the years as I continued to plan the book, I kept that info tucked in the back of my mind. As I wrote individual pieces here and there over the years, the format for the book took many twists and turns. (But everything was held onto. First stored in a large envelope. Later, when the envelope was full, it was kept in an old jigsaw puzzle box.) I went back and forth over whether to write a basic biography with a few poetic accounts added in or a book focusing strictly on the poetic accounts. Most female readers aren’t big on sports books in general, and even less so when the subject matter is boxing. And there are numerous straight out biographies in print on Ali already. So, I felt my best chance at attracting some female reader interest, and to somewhat separate my book from the pack, was to go with the latter. I posted an early version of one piece on a poetry writers and readers site. One male reader called it a “cool ass poem” while female reader feedback stated, while not into sports, they loved the artistic expression in the piece, and therefore enjoyed reading it. I felt both supported my decision. Further confirmation came from my female editor who stated, “The concept is well-thought out and expertly crafted. Using the Greek ode as a model is fitting, and the strict parameters in which this is written only help to elevate it to a worthy and beautiful piece of art. The respect and admiration for Muhammad Ali is palpable. It is evident in every word.” However, the risk in doing it this way was potentially alienating some sports loving male readers not in to poetry. As one male reviewer stated, “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 hoping they can suspend their disbelief just long enough to read Bates’ brilliant introduction and one single poem. I’m convinced one poem will render them as incapable of not continuing to read this most amazing recreation of Ali’s career… 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. 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.” These comments from both genders told me that I’d achieved my objective and made the right decision. Hopefully, readers from both genders will suspend any preconceived aversions and take a chance. I am proud of, and pleased with, the book I wrote. Only time will tell if it that equates to any commercial success.
With anticipation building for next month’s release of “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” many may be surprised to learn Ali already did battle with the “Man of Steel.” In 1978, DC Comics put out a special edition featuring a battle in the ring between “The Greatest” and the legendary Superhero. The cover featured the two squaring off in the ring with a celebrity packed audience looking on. Among the celebrities identifiable are Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Donny and Marie, Ron Howard, Wolfman Jack, Cher, Sonny Bono, Ron Howard, Liberace, Pele, Kurt Vonnegut, Lex Luther, and Presidents Ford and Carter. In all, the cover contained over 170 likenesses of various celebrities. A special code sheet identifier page listing the names of all of the celebrities in attendance was included. Perhaps the most notable observer, center seated ringside, was identified only by the hooded, pointed eared, back of his head. Could it be he was there scouting a future opponent? This special edition comic book was 72 pages in length with a cover price of $2.50. More about the story line and outcome in a future post.