Archive for the 'Poem of the Week' Category

Poem of the Week: A Poem About Baseballs

The title of this week’s poem by National Book Award winner Denis Johnson is meant to be ironic. It’s not a poem about baseballs, but a poem about hanging on and finding meaning and hell, sometimes the only thing for a guy to grasp is a baseball. Sometimes the only way to make sense of big problems is through the scope of balls, strikes, fly balls, grounders. At least that’s what he seems to be going for in this very dark, affecting poem. (via Poetry Foundation).

for years the scenes bustled
through him as he dreamed he was
alive. then he felt real, and slammed

awake in the wet sheets screaming
too fast, everything moves
too fast, and the edges of things
are gone. four blocks away

a baseball was a dot against
the sky, and he thought, my
glove is too big, i will

drop the ball and it will be
a home run. the snow falls
too fast from the clouds,
and night is dropped and

snatched back like a huge
joke. is that the ball, or is
it just a bird, and the ball is
somewhere else, and i will
miss it? and the edges are gone, my

hands melt into the walls, my
hands do not end where the wall
begins. should i move
forward, or back, or will the ball

come right to me? i know i will
miss, because i always miss when it
takes so long. the wall has no
surface, no edge, the wall

fades into the air and the air is
my hand, and i am the wall. my
arm is the syringe and thus i

become the nurse, i am you,
nurse. if he gets
around the bases before the
ball comes down, is it a home

run, even if i catch it? if we could
slow down, and stop, we
would be one fused mass careening
at too great a speed through
the emptiness. if i catch

the ball, our side will
be up, and i will have to bat,
and i might strike out.

Poem of the Week: Baseball and Classicism

This poem by one Tom Clark descended on me  from the heavens,  like an omen presented by some ancient Greek god or goddess. Well actually, I saw it on the sidebar of Tampa outfielder Fernando Perez’s recent essay for the Poetry Foundation. Here it is, a simple, pleasant poem for the inquisitive fan in us all:

Every day I peruse the box scores for hours
Sometimes I wonder why I do it
Since I am not going to take a test on it
And no one is going to give me money

The pleasure’s something like that of codes
Of deciphering an ancient alphabet say
So as brightly to picturize Eurydice
In the Elysian Fields on her perfect day

The day she went 5 for 5 against Vic Raschi

Poem of the Week: Baseball Canto

This week’s poem comes a day late, but you know, at least it’s here. It’s a canto in the tradition of Ezra Pound, featuring an allusion to Ezra Pound, and written by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Ferlinghetti is (I’m pretty sure) a Giants fan, which is a bummer, but his life’s work in writing and advocating literature makes up for it. He founded City Lights Books in San Francisco, palled around with fantasy baseball fan  Jack Kerouac, and published Ginsberg’s Howl.  Here’s his poem, Baseball Canto:

Watching baseball, sitting in the sun, eating popcorn,
reading Ezra Pound,
and wishing that Juan Marichal would hit a hole right through the
Anglo-Saxon tradition in the first Canto
and demolish the barbarian invaders.
When the San Francisco Giants take the field
and everybody stands up for the National Anthem,
with some Irish tenor’s voice piped over the loudspeakers,
with all the players struck dead in their places
and the white umpires like Irish cops in their black suits and little
black caps pressed over their hearts,
Standing straight and still like at some funeral of a blarney bartender,
and all facing east,
as if expecting some Great White Hope or the Founding Fathers to
appear on the horizon like 1066 or 1776.

But it don’t stop nobody this time,
in their revolution round the loaded white bases,
in this last of the great Anglo-Saxon epics,
in the territorial libre of Baseball.
But Willie Mays appears instead,
in the bottom of the first, and a roar goes up as he clouts the first one into the sun and takes off, like a foot runner from Thebes.
The ball is lost in the sun and maidens wail after him
as he keeps running through the Anglo-Saxon epic.
And Tito Fuentes comes up looking like a bullfighter
in his tight pants and small pointy shoes.
And the right field bleachers go mad with Chicanos and blacks and Brooklyn beer-drinkers,
“Tito! Sock it to him, sweet Tito!”
And sweet Tito puts his foot in the bucket
and smacks one that don’t come back at all,
and flees around the bases like he’s escaping from the United Fruit Company.
As the gringo dollar beats out the pound.
And sweet Tito beats it out like he’s beating out sury,
not to mention fascism and anti-Semitism.
And Juan Marichal comes up, and the Chicano bleachers go loco again, as Juan belts the first ball out of sight, and rounds first and keeps going
and rounds second and rounds third,
and keeps going and hits pay dirt
to the roars of the grungy populace.
As some nut presses the backstage panic button
for the tape-recorded National Anthem again,
to save the situation.

Poem of the Week: The Ball Game

This week’s poem by Robert Creeley comes to us via The Good Form,  a blog “where sports and poetry meet to talk it out.” The kind (and kindredly spirited) folks over there contacted us a few weeks ago, and we’re sorry it took this long to introduce you. Anyway, they present Creeley’s poem in the context of a kind of funny, but kind of morbid story about a rainy Saturday night spent in the company of the Padres and Nationals.  As for me, I’m still trying to figure out what exactly old Bob Creeley is trying to say here:

*Update: Ted found this mp3 of Creeley reading the poem out loud: Robert Creeley — The Ball Game

Robert Creeley Poets and Pitchers Poet card setThe one damn time (7th inning)
standing up to get a hot dog someone spills
mustard all over me

The conception is
the hit, whacko!
Likewise out of the park

of our own indifferent vulgarity, not
mind you, that one repents even the most visual

Early in life the line is straight
made straight
against the grain.

Take the case of myself, and why not
since these particulars need
no further impetus,
take me at the age of 13
and for some reason there, no matter the particular

The one damn time (7th inning)
standing up to get a hot dog someone spills
mustard all over me


Poem Of The Week: Brush Back

This poem comes from a chapbook by Jilly Dybka called “Fair Territory.” You can download it here. For free. The poem’s relevance should be obvious in these trying times. Pardon the format:

Brush Back Poem

Poem of the Week: Pull Hitter

Mariner Russell Branyan is having his best year as a pro, the proverbial “career year.” Credit may go to a computer-aided eye exercise program, or to statistical anomaly, but the big lefty has kept the Ms over .500 and in sniffing distance of the Wild Card in a tough AL West division. In honor of Branyan–a hard-swinging pull hitter–we present “Pull Hitter” by R. Gerry Fabian, via Baseball Almanac. In a year when every pitch must look to him like a grapefruit, this poem might remind Russell of those long minor league nights, after and before another bus ride, when the latest chance at four bases floats inches past the pole, and a career
.234 hitter grounds another chopper to the first baseman, longing one more evening for the major league minimum.

of the bat
a l o n g drive

Poem Of The Week: The Night Game

Tonight I saw one of the best baseball games I have ever seen. It was Mets and Cardinals and Albert Pujols and Johan Santana and everything that game should have been. Mostly it was Albert Pujols. I’ll write about the game, I think, tomorrow. But for now, a poem by Robert Pinsky, The Night Game. I just discovered it a few moments ago, and am smitten. Especially with the little haiku about Whitey Ford you’ll find halfway down. “A mere success,” Pinsky calls Ford. How many people would give up years, limbs, loves for the chance to be a “mere success?” Ask the poet, ask the pitcher (not Ford) Pinsky refers to at the end of this poem:

robert pinsky poet basebal cardSome of us believe
We would have conceived romantic
Love out of our own passions
With no precedents,
Without songs and poetry–
Or have invented poetry and music

As a comb of cells for the honey.

Shaped by ignorance,
A succession of new worlds,
Congruities improvised by
Immigrants or children.

I once thought most people were Italian,
Jewish or Colored.
To be white and called
Something like Ed Ford
Seemed aristocratic,
A rare distinction.

Possibly I believed only gentiles
And blonds could be left-handed.

Already famous
After one year in the majors,
Whitey Ford was drafted by the Army
To play ball in the flannels
Of the Signal Corps, stationed
In Long Branch, New Jersey.

A night game, the silver potion
Of the lights, his pink skin
Shining like a burn.

Never a player
I liked or hated: a Yankee,
A mere success.

But white the chalked-off lines
In the grass, white and green
The immaculate uniform,
And white the unpigmented
Halo of his hair
When he shifted his cap:

So ordinary and distinct,
So close up, that I felt
As if I could have made him up,
Imagined him as I imagined

The ball, a scintilla
High in the black backdrop
Of the sky. Tight red stitches.
Rawlings. The bleached

Horsehide white: the color
Of nothing. Color of the past
And of the future, of the movie screen
At rest and of blank paper.

“I could have.” The mind. The black
Backdrop, the white
Fly picked out by the towering
Lights. A few years later

On a blanket in the grass
By the same river
A girl and I came into
Being together
To the faint muttering
Of unthinkable
Troubadours and radios.

The emerald
Theater, the night.
Another time,
I devised a left-hander
Even more gifted
Than Whitey Ford: A Dodger.
People were amazed by him.
Once, when he was young,
He refused to pitch on Yom Kippur.

Poem Of The Week: The Base Stealer

Ricky Henderson was inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend. We didn’t necessarily mean to ignore that fact (or Jim Rice’s induction), but we have. So PnP makes amends to Ricky the best way we know how.  This  work by Robert Francis, a student of Robert Frost, captures the tension of a stolen base like only poetry and Ricky Henderson can. And unlike Ricky’s career, it’s quite short:

robert francis cardPoised between going on and back, pulled
Both ways taut like a tight-rope walker,
Fingertips pointing the opposites,
Now bouncing tiptoe like a dropped ball,
Or a kid skipping rope, come on, come on!
Running a scattering of steps sidewise,
How he teeters, skitters, tingles, teases,
Taunts them, hovers like an ecstatic bird,
He’s only flirting, crowd him, crowd him,
Delicate, delicate, delicate, delicate – Now!

Poem of the Week: Playing Catch

A hypothetical exploration in this week’s poem, “Playing Catch,” by poet Tim Seibles, published in Ploughshares. What if all the world’s balls disappeared? What then? How hard will we fall when the crutches are kicked out from under us?:

for Hermann Michaeli

tim seibles baseball cardOn the day the balls disappeared, men playing soccer
suddenly looked like crazy people chasing invisible
rabbits through the short grass. Men playing baseball
became more clearly what they’d always been: bored
teenagers waiting around for something to happen.

Spectators, at home and in the stands, believed
they were being jerked around by a player
conspiracy, that this was the first whimper
of another strike that would cancel all the fun.

On the day the balls disappeared, the sun did not
smear its way up above the dew-damp rooftops as if this
were a day to keep your finger on. And if all the umps and refs
overslept that morning, it only meant they were a little extra
tired of instant replay highlighting their best mistakes.

In fact, it was a good Saturday: sunlight the color of a canary—
everybody was outside! I remember one woman in particular,
alone in the schoolyard practicing lay-ups. Each time
she left the ground she balanced the basketball like
a breakable thing, then let it slip off her long
white fingers toward the rim.

It had been August for more than a month and, as usual,
the televisions were jam-packed with sports: preseason
football, golf, baseball, soccer, some rugby . . . If you didn’t
know better watching TV could make you think the world
was really just a million fields separated by a few
rivers and roads—that life was, in essence, a chance
to love one of the many artificial spheres.

I guess they went all at once or, at least, within
the same fifteen minutes. I had been watching the U.S.
Open Tennis Championships when Pete Sampras, ready
to serve, gestured to the ball boy who quickly
pointed at the other and shrugged, hoping not
to be blamed. People in the stadium began whistling
and stomping their feet. I went to the fridge
and grabbed a plum.

But I remember noticing
a boy and his sister across the street playing catch
in the yard half-framed by my kitchen window.
He had a new red glove. She was a lefty and
brown as coffee, and, just to show off, she whipped
the throw just above his reach.

A moment later
he yelled, I can’t find it—I don’t see it—
it ain’t out here
! She thought he just wanted her
to go get it, just to get on her nerves. She thought
he was just kidding around.

Poem Of The Week: Stickball

This week’s poem (h/t Reeves — please click that link) meanders across a suffocating New York afternoon. We’re in the 40s or 50s in a working class neighborhood and the weather is scorching — I mean it’s Do The Right Thing hot outside. You’ll feel it in a second when you read the thing. Any poem that uses “bleachered” as a verb is alright with me, and this one, written by Chuck Sullivan and first published in Esquire,  sure does:

In the middlepoets_chuck sullivan baseball card
of the concrete heat
boys manning our
sneakered positions tarred
in the block’s summer field

We hustled out
fates into shape
on the city’s sweating face
in the lean, bouncing grace
of our broomstick, rubber ball game
bound by the sewers and parked cars
of our Outlaw Little League

While on the sidelines
dreaming in our cheers
the old men watched
bleachered on brownstone stoops
and iron fire escapes
making small book on the shadowy
skills of stickball stars
lost in the late-inning sun
of the stadiumed street’s
priceless, makeshift diamond

*Edited with another Ted Walker baseball card*