Muhammad Ali is well remembered as one of the world’s greatest boxers, an inspirational athlete and equality activist; his name will not soon disappear from our collective consciousness nor history books the world over. What many forget — or, perhaps, never really knew — is that Muhammad Ali was a talented poet, and in fact, his poetry has been touted as a precursor to rap music as we know it today. Few have not heard the phrase with which Muhammad’s name is synonymous, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,“ but Ali’s poetry work extends far beyond a few unforgettable lines, and is of a caliber one would hardly think could come from a world-class boxer.
Indeed, Muhammad Ali is often remembered for far less than the full range of his athletic, intellectual, eccentric and creative talents and tendencies. As the Inquisitr reported last week, many didn’t know that Muhammad Ali was a devoted UFO watcher who frequently spoke of an encounter with a unknown, hovering alien object as he walked in Central Park with a friend.
“I happened to look up just before dawn, as I often do while running, and there hovering above us was this brilliant light hanging as if by an invisible thread. At first I thought it was a beacon projected from a helicopter, but moments later a similar object passed in front of us,” said Muhammad Ali at the time.
While the pursuit of UFO watching and theorizing about the alien life forms that are responsible for them will not be relatable to most people, Muhammad Ali’s poetry will live long after the legendary boxer’s death and funeral last week.
WBUR explains that Muhammad Ali’s poetry was personally, culturally, socially, and even musically significant.
“There were the quick couplets he used to taunt his opponents, sometimes in the ring. There were the short poems he would recite during interviews – those were noteworthy for their witty rhymes and metaphors. And then there were powerful and moving tributes, like the one he recited in 1972, imagining himself as a black prisoner at the Attica Prison uprising,” said WBUR.
“Some say his poems were a precursor to rap, and most agree that his was a poetry of power.”
Poet Adrian Matejka told WBUR that one particular Muhammad Ali quote from one of Ali’s poems suggested that they were a precursor to modern rap music.
“Rhyme! Just over and over, these incredible rhymes… I can’t think of the exact line, but it’s from that ‘Jack Paar’ and he said something like, ‘Here I predict Mr. Liston’s dismemberment. I’ll hit him so hard; he’ll wonder where October and November went,'” Matejka told WBUR. “That kind of, off rhyme, that’s where it starts to intersect with rap to me—to rhyme dismemberment and October and November went.”
Muhammad Ali’s poem, Last night I had a dream, is one of his most popular; a true and palpable threat expressed with lyrical rhymes in perfect, poetic rhythm.
“…For this fight, I’ve wrestled with alligators,
I’ve tussled with a whale.
I done handcuffed lightning
And throw thunder in jail.
You know I’m bad.
just last week, I murdered a rock,
Injured a stone, Hospitalized a brick.
I’m so mean, I make medicine sick…”
Looking beyond Muhammad’s most famous poetry and quotes, poems of great merit and competitive spirit can be uncovered, such as Ali’s poem To make America the greatest is my goal.
“To make America the greatest is my goal,
So I beat the Russians, and I beat the Pole,
and for the USA won the medal of gold.
Italians said: ‘You’re Greater than the Cassius of old’…”
Muhammad Ali quotes which have become popular cannot encompass the quality and extent of his poetry collection. One thing is certain: quotes from Muhammad Ali’s poetry, which have been touted as a precursor to modern rap music, will live long after Ali’s funeral.
[Photo by Kent Gavin/Getty Images]