Archive for the 'Poetics' Category

You Cannot Live in the Air

At this point    I don’t know
At this point

                      I don’t know
    how there is meaning in everything
and this is everything
and so there must be a meaning in this

but meaning doesn’t
     live in a knee
   it doesn’t hold a knee together
         meaning isn’t in the sinews
       or the marrow
                     so what does it hold?

between the grass
                  and the dirt
between the left foot and the right
    there is a moment
          where something is wrong
                   but it has not yet happened

and that moment is like two moments
and the two like sixteen
        and you wait
                        for the moments to all pass
                                   so you can know
and for the right foot come down
and it does, because it has to        

and then you wait some more
    for your words         are severed
               and the meaning has vanished
and you try to think of a way
                      to go back to when
                                          you were in the air

          but you cannot live in the air

Found Poetry: Jose Canseco

 Found poetry is a specific type of poem, particularly common in high school language arts classes, where you take words or phrases from a text and rearrange them to create original poetry. In this case, the following poem is constructed purely out of tweets from Jose Canseco’s twitter account.

Maybe I Am The Phantom of Baseball

Maybe I am the phantom of baseball

I will do anything for one more at bat
I know I can still hit MLB pitching
I can still hit a golf ball 380 yards
I have the hips of a 20 year old
I can
I have

I have a medical condition:
I love the game so much
Even in exhibition

Invite me for an old timers game
I will play

Anything for a look

Still dreaming of that one last
Trip of imagination
Back to the big leagues

I miss everything where did it go

We Cannot Know His Legendary Head

I have written a poem about Manny Ramirez. It is a villanelle in honor of National Poetry Month and in response to Patrick DuBuque’s challenge to write a baseball villanelle. You may recognize the form from better poets like Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath.

We cannot know his legendary head,
We cannot know his riddle-speak, his swing,
His heart that greets no consequence, no dread.


Oblivious (or publicly misread),
He went forth like a jester, like a king.
We cannot know his legendary head.


Ramirez never anguished, never bled.
Perfection seemed a right and simple thing.
His heart? It greets no consequence, no dread.


A paradox: collective joy and dread
Awash in pride and drunk on estrogen–
We cannot know his legendary head.


A selfish man and insecure, they said.
But maybe public shame can even sting
A heart that greets no consequence, no dread.


And maybe all the jokes had turned to lead,
The time had come to leave the center ring.
We’ll never know his legendary head,
His heart that greets no consequence, no dread.

The Poetics of Scorekeeping, by Patrick Dubuque

Today’s Scorekeeping Week contributor, Patrick Dubuque, writes about baseball and the Seattle Mariners at his blog, The Playful Utopia.

It’s the question many of us dread at the ballpark, usually accompanied by a smirk and perhaps a mesh-backed cap, as a man with a salt-flecked mustache twists around in his seat. Why do you keep score? It’s a question that is rarely worth trying to answer, except with a shrug: “I just like to.” Then the conversation ends; the chasm between can never be bridged.

It’s not a bad question, though.

On Sunday, June 4, 2000, I went to a baseball game at Safeco Field in Seattle. Trailing 5-1 in the seventh inning, Padres third baseman Phil Nevin lifted a fly off Arthur Rhodes, deep to right field. Jim Caple wrote the following passage about what happened next:

[Stan] Javier raced back to the warning track, leaped and reached his glove over the fence. The ball appeared to strike the glove’s pocket about an arm-length beyond the fence but Javier couldn’t hold onto it. Yet when he pulled the glove back, he also flipped the ball back onto the field side of the fence. As Javier fell to the ground, he looked up, saw the ball dropping toward him, reached out his glove and became the leading candidate for Catch of the Year.

From my seat, I wrote my own version of what occurred:


The average comment about scorekeeping will inevitably mention that it is fading from the national consciousness, a dying language. In the story above, both accounts are translations of a moment, the encapsulation of a million simultaneous details into a single, communicable event. When you read Caple’s account, you get a good feel for what happened, but all writing is in some way summarization, an altered translation. The single 9!, in a only a few strokes of a pencil, hacks away at the adjectives and the hyperbole. What remains are the man, Stan Javier, and the quality of his performance.

By keeping score we have created our own language. Each person’s style varies, providing a unique dialect, but the narrative is one which other scorekeepers (and, it must be emphasized, only other scorekeepers) understand. The language of baseball creates its own citizenry. It has its own punctuation and pronunciation, its own trimeter rhythm. Scorekeeping converts baseball into poetry. Its minimalism represents Keats’ negative capacity, a freedom from resolving the unresolvable, and instead revel in the process itself, the telling.

The relative simplicity of scorekeeping demonstrates the powerful human need to categorize, to make sense out of what we observe. In reality, even amidst the repetition of baseball, no two pop flies are ever the same; there is always some factor, some element, that is unique. Scorekeeping allows us to condense these infinities into a single subset, like a 9, so that we can process them and, more importantly, discern patterns. It’s not enough to sit passively, and let the game (or life) unfurl before us; we want mastery over it, a knowledge of why things happen the way they do.

In a game of chess, the number of possible permutations exceeds the capacity of the human brain after the first few moves. In baseball, many of the variables reset between batters, supplying the mind with only a few contingencies to consider. Because of this, we can use the data we’ve collected to make predictions about what will happen. This, more than anything, is why baseball fans are drawn to numbers, to the game’s unique capacity for analysis. For a sport and its chronicling method, scorekeeping, that are so heavily rooted in the past, they are also obsessed with the future. The scorecard allows this process to happen in the middle of the action, using those inevitable pauses to reflect and reassess.

Finally, scorekeeping isn’t merely transcription. A quick glance at a cell phone will confer a sheer quantity of information that no scorebook can replicate. It’s the writing itself that is the defining act; it is the commemoration that separates a given ballgame from any of the million before it. We write to connect ourselves to history, to name ourselves as part of it. Scorekeeping, like writing, allows us to describe for posterity our own fandom, our presence at that game and our understanding of it. It is how we take possession of our past.

Because I was there to witness it, I own a small piece of that Stan Javier catch. As long as I have that scorecard, I always will.