San Francisco and Baltimore Librarians Wager on Super Bowl -- Poetry Is at Stake

Categories: Local News, Sports

George Sterling's "cool, grey city of love" is once again represented in the Super Bowl
The libraries have gotten in on the action. It was only a matter of time. The Super Bowl is basically a proxy battle between two cities -- co-headliners, standing face-to-face, flexing muscles like boxers at a pre-fight weight-in, compared and contrasted for two weeks of hype, overlayed by montages of skylines and monuments.

Locals close ranks, flaunt civic pride. It's an annual war dance, of jerseys, smack talk, and wagers. Wagers like the one between the leaders of San Francisco's and Baltimore's public libraries.

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Poems will serve as currency. If the 49ers win, Enoch Pratt Free Library CEO Carla Hayden must recite George Sterling's "The Cool, Grey City of Love" in her city's Central Library Main Hall while donning a Niners jersey. If the Ravens win, San Francisco City Librarian Luis Herrera will recite Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" in the main library's atrium while wearing a Ravens jersey. The performance will be posted on YouTube.

These are heavy symbols at stake. Baltimore's football team, after all, was named after the legendary resident's most famous poem. And Sterling's ode to his native city remains one of the most iconic descriptions of our magical peninsula -- "The sea-winds are her kiss/ And the sea-gull is her dove/ Cleanly and strong she is/ My cool, grey city of love."

"We are confident about the Niners' victory on Sunday, and we sure hope Dr. Hayden looks good in red and gold," Herrera said in a statement. "As a huge sports fan, I am thrilled to support our football team while spotlighting two great library systems and two great literary cities."

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