Welcome to THT Poetry!

If you think that Sabermetrics has had a tough time winning public admiration, then brace yourself, because we are about to start promoting its much older, uglier, prude of a cousin: Poetry.

My name is Ed DeCaria, and I have been granted the privilege of sharing baseball-related poetry with you here at The Hardball Times. Poems will appear in the THT Live section with headers containing the conspicuous prefix “THT Poetry.”

If readership here is anything like the broader population, most of you have tuned poetry out of your lives by now. But with baseball as our shared landscape, I’ll try to make it relevant for you again.

To me, poetry is a literary Jose Oquendo—it’s lean (5-foot-10/160), discerning (career 12 percent/10 percent BB/K rates), and can play anywhere (1988!). And that’s good, because I don’t know any more than you what I will be writing about week-by-week. Today, we’ll tether ourselves to Dee Gordon’s feet. Next week, I’ll try to recap Kerry Wood’s career with some statistically-guided verse. But beyond those (and possibly some sultry prose from the perspective of an R.A. Dickey knuckleball), my lineup card is blank.

What follows is a one-poem introduction to poetry. Marianne Moore wrote this nearly 100 years ago:

image

Here are five things that I like about Moore’s poem (which is included in this collection available for purchase):

  1. She refers to both baseball and statisticians as “phenomena” not easily understood or admired. Turns out she actually LOVED baseball. As an 81-year-old, she threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day 1968 (photo here).
  2. She knocks unintelligible, over-derived poetry for being closed to meaningful interpretation.
  3. She argues that poetry can be useful in the same way that an evolved body part can be useful. I had never thought about poetry being directly “useful” until I read this poem.
  4. She teases readers with this idea of “imaginary gardens with real toads in them,” which I find immensely provocative.
  5. She ends, as I begin, with an invitation to discover poetry in all its rawness and genuineness.

With that, welcome to THT Poetry! Should be a lot of fun. Please never hesitate to comment or critique, or suggest a topic.

And now for my debut … a sudoku haiku:

Triple
by Ed DeCaria

Dee Gordon ignores
gravity / erasers chase
laces around

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

cleats kick chalk
mid-air / chattering teeth unleash
their sound

dig
second dive third / safely back on ground
.

© 2012 Ed DeCaria, All Rights Reserved


11 Comments
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Jason Linden
9 years ago

1. I think this is fantastic.

2. I will be using that Marianne Moore poem in both my AP English class and my creative writing classes. Thanks for that.

3. Again, fantastic. More please.

studes
9 years ago

Nice job, Ed!  Welcome.

Mary Lee
9 years ago

Baseball and poetry seem to be a winning combination!

Ed DeCaria
9 years ago

@Jason I’ve been trained not to trust anyone who claims to like my poetry (!), but thank you just the same. I do agree that Marianne Moore’s poem is fantastic—a great way to melt the ice shield that most people put up when confronted by poetry.

@studes Thanks, Dave.

@MaryLee Thanks for visiting my poetry “vacation home”! Come back soon …

Doraine Bennett
9 years ago

I had completely forgotten that reference to baseball in Moore’s poem. Nice intro for this column.

Dom D
9 years ago

This was like watching Dee Gordon legging out a triple from the vantage point of his shoes… with sound.  THT > ESPN.  Well done!

Donna Smith
9 years ago

Lots of action in your poem! Quick, like baseball.  Loved Moore’s line – “literalists of the imagination”…hmmm.

Ed DeCaria
9 years ago

@Doraine Interesting to transport oneself through time to her bewilderment at baseball fandom (possibly already her own) in the late 1910’s and 1920’s.

@Dom Thanks! Of course, after I wrote it but before I posted it, I decided to look up Gordon’s stats only to realize that he’s only hit one triple so far this year. Of course, I think he only has one other base hit besides that …

@Donna Agree. Between the abstract “literalists of the imagination” and the concrete “imaginary gardens with real toads in them”, she really nails her point.

Ed DeCaria
9 years ago

@kevin Interesting. I’ve never read that one (or any of his other baseball-related poems; I’ll have to research them). His aggressive opening line reminded me of the following poem (sourced from The Baseball Almanac’s Baseball Poetry page—http://www.baseball-almanac.com/poems.shtml):

Untitled (Slug The Umpire)
by Anonymous
Published: Tribune (1886)

Mother, may I slug the umpire
May I slug him right away?
So he cannot be here, Mother
When the clubs begin to play?

Let me clasp his throat, dear mother,
In a dear delightful grip
With one hand and with the other
Bat him several in the lip.

Let me climb his frame, dear mother,
While the happy people shout;
I’ll not kill him, dearest mother
I will only knock him out.

Let me mop the ground up, Mother,
With his person, dearest do;
If the ground can stand it, Mother
I don’t see why you can’t, too.

Mother may I slug the umpire,
Slug him right between the eyes?
If you let me do it, Mother
You shall have the champion prize.

—-

The line “I’ll not kill him, dearest mother / I will only knock him out” cracks me up.

-Ed

kevin
9 years ago

well, to be fair, many of his poems are not about baseball. if you want the sports poems, check out *book of magazine verse* which is available in ‘the collected poems of jack spicer’ and ‘the collected books of jack spicer’. most of his poems don’t relate to baseball at all, tho he was a rabid fan.

kevin
9 years ago

the poet jack spicer wrote a pretty decent amount about baseball. here is one i am fond of:

I would like to beat my hands around your heart.
You are a young pitcher but you throw fast curve balls,
slow fast balls, change-ups that at the last
moment don’t change. Junk.
The pitchers who are my age call it. And regret
every forty years of their life when they have
to use them.
If I were a catcher behind you, I’d make you
throw real fast balls and a few sliders
to keep them honest. But you’re not on
my team and when I face you as a pinch-
hitter, I strike out.
Somebody so young being so cagy, I
Got three home-runs off of Warren Spahn
but both of us understood where the ball
was (or wasn’t) going to go. You
Are a deceit and when you get to the
age of thirty (and I live to see it) you’re
Going to get knocked out of the box,
Baby.