May 23, 2014

Poetry Friday--Baseball Poetry

Last Friday, on my library blog, I wrote about an new anthology of baseball poems titled, Heart of the Order: Baseball Poems: An Anthology edited by Gabriel Fried. The anthology contains more than 70 poems about baseball.

Before I share a poem from the book, I'd like to tell you about an interview Robert Pinsky did with WBUR's Bill Littlefield, the host of Only a Game. In it, Pinsky said,
I love basketball. I love baseball. I love football. Somehow the team sports that my dad played and my grandfather played and that I played--more ineptly than thou--those are the sports that have meaning to me.
The family tie is a strong one and it appears again and again in Heart of the Order. Here's an example:
Glory
by Yusef Komunyakaa

Most were married teenagers
Working knockout shifts daybreak
To sunset six days a week--
Already old men playing ball
In a field between a row of shotgun houses
& the Magazine Lumber Company.
They were all Jackie Robinson
& Willie Mays, a touch of
Josh Gibson & Satchell Paige
In each stance and swing, a promise
Like a hesitation pitch always
At the edge of their lives,
Arms sharp as rifles.
The Sunday afternoon heat
Flared like thin flowered skirts
As children and wives cheered.
The men were like cats
Running backwards to snag
Pop-ups & high-flies off
Fences, stealing each other's glory.
The old deacons & raconteurs
Who umpired made an Out or Safe
Into a song & dance routine.
Runners hit the dirt
& slid into homeplate,
Cleats catching light,
As they conjured escapes, outfoxing
Double plays. In the few seconds
It took a man to eye a woman
Upon the makeshift bleachers,
A stolen base or homerun
Would help another man
Survive the new week.

I'm probably the most un-sporty person I know, but, somehow I've managed to post a number of times about baseball. Click here, here, or here. However, the poems I write generally have little to do with the playing of the game!

I'll finish with an original poem, which is only tangentially about baseball:

Family Vacation, Circa 1961

We never went on cruises
or stayed at vacation resorts.
Our vacation spots were
cheaply rented or borrowed
bungalows, often shared
with aunts, uncles, and cousins.

One night we all went to dinner.
Nothing fancy, not expensive,
but the food must have been
good, because two men of
some renown came in to eat--
Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

I'm sure you've heard of them.
They were gods--baseball gods!
We got their autographs on
the greasy spoon's cheap paper
napkins. If only someone had
had a camera to take a family shot.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.
Violet Nesdoly / poems is where all the cool kids are hanging out today--see you there!

Photo from Baseball Digest, October 1961, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

20 comments:

  1. Oh my, did you really see Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris? I love the poem, & the 'greasy spoon's cheap paper napkins', Diane. And the poem/anthology sounds wonderful for those who love the sport. It takes me back to my step-father playing on those warm summer nights with other men in the community on the field at the edge of town. Nice times!

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    1. Yes, indeed, I did see them, and, if I ever went through some old boxes, I might even find those autographs!

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  2. I remember idolizing MM and RM when I was little. I've always enjoyed baseball; it's nice to read another poem from the anthology. Great moment to capture in your poem :).

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    1. Thanks, Jama! It's a great anthology.

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  3. Wonderful Diane! I love your observation about how men follow the sports of their fathers and their youths. My theory is that when they play senior hockey or old-timers baseball or whatever, they revert back to the stud they were in high school or college. The glory days are back--if only the back, arms, legs, lungs, and all the reflexes would cooperate.

    The last lines of your poem is how many of us feel about glory moments from long ago: " If only someone had
    had a camera to take a family shot." Perfectly said!

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    1. Thanks, Violet. I would have love to have a photo from that time.

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  4. Hi, Diane. I can just imagine the paper those autographs are on -- what a rich visual and tactile image. Funny, as I was leaving class this morning, I saw workers on a lunch break, tossing a baseball outside their office, mitts and all.

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  5. What a great story in your poem. They are baseball gods, indeed! I like that your title doesn't give away the surprise, but looking back at it makes me reflect that family vacations often include happy surprises.

    I enjoyed "Glory" a lot too. It captures how crucial that game can be for people.

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    1. Thanks, Karin. I now look back and think how hard it must have been for those two men--they couldn't even go out for a quick meal without being accosted.

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  6. I'm not much of a sports person either, Diane, but I would certainly be impressed if these two baseball legends were eating in the same restaurant. Cool beans!

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    1. I wish I could remember more--like what restaurant it was, and where exactly it was.

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  7. If we had a team, we could be the Unsporty Poets. ;-) I love the mix of clear-eyed reality and nostalgia in your poem. Baseball is the only sport slow enough for me to really understand what's going on. And I like the 7th inning stretch.

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    1. I love singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." And, at Fenway, "Sweet Caroline." Fun!

      We should have a contest to design the Unsporty Poets' team logo and tee-shirt!

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    2. Oooh, can I join the team? Can I? Can I?

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  8. A love of sports has pretty much passed my whole family by. I'm truly a spectator with poems like this!

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    1. There are many of us Unsporty Poets. Join the club!

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  9. For me, these are the kind of memories that I've lately started wondering... was this a dream or did it really happen? At least you've got the autographs (somewhere) to prove it!

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    1. I have a better chance of winning the lottery than I have of finding those autographs!

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