Basharat Bashir

Mohammad Ali as a Poet!

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One of the greatest and most significant sporting figures in history, Mohammad Ali displayed amazing rhythm while fighting in the ring as well as astonishing eloquence in using words and phrases.  Ali wrote a number of poems in a style, that reflected his unique approach in creating an image of words that felt like him and acted like him. The effect of his poems on a reader is as swift as he was while facing his opponent. Ali, the greatest boxing champion in history was proactive to social issues and actively participated in defending rights of people. He was a nightmare for white supremacists, and he never hesitated in criticizing the advantage enjoyed by whites’ over colored people. Ali was a revolution both inside  as well as outside the ring.

Here is a poem written by Mohammad Ali about the 1971 Attica prison riots, which resulted in the deaths of 43 people .According to an interview in this poem Ali imagines what the prisoners might have said. The Attica riots started on September 9, 1971, when a black inmate was killed while trying to escape the prison. Over the next four days, up to 2,200 prisoners rebelled, taking 42 of the prison staff hostage. Nelson Rockefeller, the New York governor at the time, refused to negotiate with the prisoners’ demands for better treatment and conditions. Soldiers raided the prison on September 13, dropping tear gas, then shooting randomly into the smoke for two minutes, non-stop. As a result, 33 prisoners and 10 prison guards ended up dead. Only one death was ascribed to the prisoners, although Rockefeller tried to blame the inmates.


Better far from all I see

To die fighting to be free

What more fitting end could be?

Better surely than in some bed

Where in broken health I’m led

Lingering until I’m dead.

Better than with prayers and pleas

Or in the clutch of some disease

Wasting slowly by degrees.

Better than a heart attack

or some dose of drug I lack;

Let me die by being black.

Better far that I should go;

Standing here against the foe

Is the sweeter death to know.

Better than the bloody stain

on some highway where I’m lain

Torn by flying glass and pane.

Better calling death to come

than to die another dumb,

muted victim in the slum.

Better than this prison rot;

if there’s any choice I’ve got,

Kill me here on the spot.

Better for my fight to wage

Now while my blood boils with rage,

Less it cool with ancient age.

Better violent for us to die

Than to Uncle Tom and try

Making peace just to live a lie.

Better now that I say my sooth;

I’m gonna die demanding Truth

While I’m still akin to youth.

Better now than later on

Now that fear of death is gone.

Never mind another dawn.

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