Wednesday, July 8, 2009

ed markowski: The Essence of Haiku

Pictured above is pop up by ed markowski, a lovely little accordion-style publication, #6 of vincent tripi's "Pinch Book Series from tribe press, published in 2004. ed sent this along with a parcel of other things and I enjoyed it very much. One poem, from which the collection takes its title, in particular grabbed me:

summer loneliness. . .
dropping the pop up
I toss to myself

ed markowski

This little 10 word piece got me thinking about a variety of things. First, I might have to retract my avowal of hating baseball poetry; I find that I've talked about this at heated length in three different past posts and, on reading ed's poem, it occurred to me that there is going to come a point when saying "Baseball poems are awful but you've got to read this one ..." is just not going to cut it anymore. It seems, perhaps, I protest too much.

Could it be that I just hate bad baseball poetry?

In thinking it through, one of the problems I have with baseball poems is the fact that the game is generally taken for a metaphor for life itself. It seems to me that when folks start futzing with metaphors of a metaphor, it isn't post-modernism: it's just plain ugly.

And yet and yet ...

I'm stuck with these baseball poems I really like. ed's poem resonates so well it positively hurts. Baseball is a team sport and here we all are, social animals. We have to cooperate to get by, to say nothing of excel. Catching pop-ups is one of the big thrills of baseball for the young and ed's protagonist here is alone and is forced to play by her/himself. S/he's throwing the ball in the air, perhaps pretending to be catching a long fly, and drops the ball. And this cuts in so many ways. Is it the catcher's lack of skill? Lack of playmates? Boredom, causing lack of attention? Of course, it is all these things, which is the beauty of the haiku form. The reader participates in the writing, the poet creating a telling resonance with enough space for all to bring their memories and observations and feelings.

Summer loneliness: there is none deeper when you are young, summer being the time you just longed and longed for and when it came and it inevitably disappointed, that disappointment was deep, indeed.

Still, it's all just a damn baseball poem, right? But somehow this poem was digging deeper, it was getting under my skin in some very personal, inexplicable way. The poem stuck with me. It just wasn't assimilated, analyzed, admired and filed away pleasantly: it seemed to be bubbling just on the surface of my consciousness, sometimes in thought and, perhaps, sometimes just below.

Then, a few nights ago, I woke up around 3 am, thinking these thoughts about this poem and it hit me: it was a particular summer, 1959 or 60, I think:

My best friend, who lived across the street from me, and I lived and breathed baseball. We played night and day and when we weren't playing we were talking or watching or listening to baseball. We used to go down to the local field, just the two of us, and hit pop-flys to one another, about all you could do when there was only two to play. Being 8 or 9 years old, we couldn't hit fly balls like adults and the result was we chased a lot of grounders or hit a lot of balls that fell short or went over the fielder's head and a lot of downtime was spent chasing the ball, waiting around for the next fly and chasing the ball.

So, it was always a thrill when an adult deigned to take us to the park and hit out to us.

One Saturday, his dad, whom I remember as having played some minor league ball, said he'd take us to the park, about a half mile away, and hit out to us. We were ecstatic. He did some little league coaching and even had a fungo bat, a special kind of light weight bat designed for repeated hitting and perfect for fly balls. We were set.

We walked down to the park and had a glorious hour and half to two hours and could not have been happier. His dad positively wore us out, not an easy task when it comes to a couple of 8 year olds. We started walking home.

We were about 6 or 7 houses away when I saw it: a sign in a wire holder, orange letters on a black background, FOR SALE. And it was up in front of my house.

What this did to an 8 year old boy, walking up the street with his best friend, after a dream-come-true kind of baseball afternoon, hardly needs to be said. In affect, our friendship ended right there, at that moment, in the hot rush of shame and fear and an awful crushing sadness. It was the beginning of an all-encompassing summer loneliness that I can feel fifty years later like it happened yesterday.

It was dropping the pop-up I tossed to myself.

Poetry is like that. If we let it in it can change our lives, it can make them richer in ways we can't even imagine. It doesn't matter if you're into haiku or epics or language poems or romantic poetry or whatever. I tell the lifelong learners in the classes on introductory poetry I occasionally teach that, for me, poetry is a way that I establish a dialogue with myself. The poet shares feelings, insights, adventures, ideas, images and we read them and compare what we have felt and thought and seen. We think about these things in different ways, from different angles, little dispatches from the poets themselves to us, little koans to help out in our everyday lives, ways to unravel knots maybe we didn't know we had, songs about how truly lucky we are or how we need to make ourselves and our worlds better places to be, ways to lift up and support our loved ones and friends.

I'm going to try and never say I hate baseball poetry again.

Thanks, ed, this one means a lot; ten succinct, insightful words, touching in ways you might never have imagined.


I had a number of things I was going to share this week but since I went on so long above, I'll leave them for another post. I did, however, promise I would mention one thing and it is well worth it. For those of you into outlaw, beat-style poetry, Klaus over at Outlaw Poetry and Free Jazz Network sent word along that there are some audios of the great Todd Moore, whose Dillinger Series is getting a bit of boost from the new Johnny Depp biopic, up on their sight here and here.

This week's sampling from the archive comes from issue #22, in May 1990, which was a broadside by Philadelphia area poet Louis McKee entitled Angelus. McKee writes beautiful, emotional verse, couched in everyday events and everyday language. He is a true small press wonder whom I admire a great deal. Here's a few short ones from the broadside, which is still available for a measly buck (9 poems) or a SASE if you're broke.

House Of Cards

Each room is a trick, held up
by the promise of another,
being too careful might be just
what it takes to bring the house down.

The Magic Of Eyes
You turned back
for a lasting look;
I am salt.
Something is wrong.

The Angelus

Stones are silent
but the stars are not;
it is easier to walk
with my head down.

And the master:

awaiting the stars--
does the grown man
feel young again?
translated by David Lanoue



Ed Baker said...

I was gonna mention

fungo bat...

I still have mine.

after a game at Griffith Stadium we wld wait in the parking lot where the players would come out... one time Mickey Vernon opened his car trunk and signed and passed ot (used) baseballs... in he trunk was a long-skinney-bat" "what's that?" I asked..

"that's a fungo batr.. has some lead in the 'sweet spot' We use it to hit high, long fly balls." then he gave it to me.....

this was in about 1952... I still have the bat...

Vincent Tripi... no 'slouch' either...

both Ed M and Vincent T well, 'everyword' poets

Phylis Walsh did a book
of Vincent's
a few years ago
( I got it in a trunk, somewhere)
frequently his pieces (and Ed's) in

Jim H. said...


Yeah, that little verse is a powerful one.


Mickey Vernon's fungo bat? Nice! I can't match that, but I do have a picture of my daughter hugging Torii Hunter.

The greatest baseball player anagram ever: Scott Baker, pitcher for the MN Twins, whose anagram is Rocket Bats. And he earned last night against those damned Yankees.

Ed Baker said...

ere's BB for you in Baltimore..

my grand-dad, Harry Baker (not "Home Run Baker),played baseball with the St. Mary's team w The Babe.

both he and George Ruth were signed to play for the Baltimore team... so, while shagging fly balls my grandfather twisted and broke his ankle in a hole out in the outfield.. so ending his professional BB career... so, being friends of the Ruth's The Babe's dad owned a saloon on East Baltimore Street and

fronted my grandfather the money to open his own saloon with his father the place was called "Harry's"

East Baltimore was fun in the 50's and before...

My grandfather's wife they called her "Aunt Fanny" was first woman to drive an automobile in B'more...

she was close friend of Sophie Tucker both ladies were "the last of the Red Hot Moma's"

now, what is left of BB and other professional sports?

... heck at nearly 70 I (still) play stick-ball with a pink "spaldine"

a broom handle with the neighbors' 10 and under's

that last pitch
P O W!
over the moon

Charles Gramlich said...

I've regretted at times not liking baseball. There a lot of neat metaphors about the game. But I never played it growing up and I just can't get thrilled about it.

Jim H. said...

Ed: My mom grew up on the NE side of Balmer. My great aunt ran a little Sicilian restaurant on the east side (near Albemarle St & Eastern Ave). My very first major league ball game (1953?) was at the old Memorial Stadium. Fond memories....

Jack Crimmins said...

Went to my first game at SF Giants new ballpark with Lawrence Ferlinghetti. L.F. once wrote poem with old Giants second baseman Tito Fuentes in it.

Liked it when Spicer, "God is a big white baseball", and Whalen, talking to Spicer I believe, wrote about baseball.

Agree with you, however, its hard to get away with baseball poems, tho this pop up poem brings baseball memories back.

Tom Clark's book, "Blue", great cover of Vida Blue winding up.

ed markowski said...

ed b.

1996, espn classic was showing the old homerun derby duels.

the show was filmed at wrigley field in los angeles. yes, there was a wrigley field in L.A.for those
who may not have known that.

saw the duel between mickey mantle & mickey vernon.

i recall mantle saying, "wel that mickey vernon sure is one great

the bizarre twist in all of this is, as i recall, i closed my eyes & i'd of sworn ronnie reagan had pulled up outside the stadium with his twenty mule team & put on mantle's yankee uniform or perhaps they had dubbed in reagan's voice when mantle was talking. yes, it was odd, very odd & i was stone cold sober.

ed markowski

Greg Schwartz said...

Ed Markowski's got a way with words very few poets can match. that's a touching story, Don -- can see where the haiku would bring that back.

Ed and Jim - thanks for sharing those B-more memories. can still remember walking through the city to a game at Memorial Stadium, though every day, driving past Camden Yards, the old one gets harder and harder to picture.

Ed Baker said...

when The Yankees played the Senators I WAS THERE...

with score card in hand....

when the game was at 2 pm I and a cpl of friends got to Griffith Stadium at 10 am

to sit down on the bench by the dug-out to watch Vernon, Gil Cohen, Eddie Yost, Jim Lemon etc show up and warm up

and the Yanks would also show early.. I had a program with The Micks and Yogi's an other IMMORTALS signatures on

and on other side Clyde Klutz and onter Senators...

when I got back from Greece my parents had thrown out all of my 50' stuff... the poems the autiographs, letters, etc so they cld use my trunk to store thier sstupid fuckin tax returns!

anyway nothing like seeing The Mick trot out to center field wearing a knee brace on each knee and limping...

man... he could hit lefty handed and right handed and one humongus homerun hit the score board 2.3 miles out and near the National Boh guy with the one eye they afixed a "ball"

now when ever I go up to The City I have a drink with Warner and we talk about his dad... etc.

Scott Metz said...

one of the very few baseball ku i've ever liked:

After eating whalemeat
orphans and a doctor start
a baseball game.

-Saito Sanki (trans by Makoto Ueda)

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

What have you boys been up to while I've been napping?

A sandlot game is breaking out ... Ed, where's that fungo bat, time to figure out whose up first -

In case we need a few extra players ...

My old man took me to the Polo Grounds to see the Mets take on the returning Dodgers, 62 or 63, he got up in the top of the 2nd or 3rd inning to get a beer, coke and a couple of dogs and by the time he waded through the line the Dodgers had scored 6 runs and were still batting.

God, how we loved those awful Mets ...

Saw Maris hit 47 and 48 in 61 to the right field porch in Yankee Stadium where we were sitting ... but it was Yogi Berra's homer that won the game that day.

Ed, ed, and Jim, thanks for the great memories,

Charles, you can see you are surrounded by people who are possessed -

Jack, thanks for the imagery - here's Ferlinghetti's Baseball Canto.

Greg, glad especially you liked the story - I never trusted any adult, particularly my parents, after that day ...

Scott, great little ku, feels like it could have been written in an orphanage in Baltimore, substitute horse for whale meat, and a young George Herman steps up to the tin pie plate ...

John Grochalski said...

on of my favorite posts thus far! amazing haiku, and great to read Baseball Canto again! thanks!

Jim H. said...

That Ferlinghetti Canto is tremendous!

So, where can I get this Markowski book? I've stumbled around the whirled wide web and can't find "Tribe Press" anywhere and Mr. Tripi's site was last updated (it seems) about 7 years ago. I'd like to put some money (however modest)in Mr. Markowski's pocket and his book on my shelf.



Ed Baker said...

Mickey just died last year...

old theme-song/refrain

first in war
first in peace
last in The American League

both the Deadskins and the Senators stunk!

and both where very last teams to have a black ball player on their team

after all, D.C. is/was a Southern-Dixie Town

L. Espenmiller said...

Hi Don,

Nicely written post - the part about Ed's haiku and where it took you, your candidness about hating baseball poems, the memory the haiku evoked - I really dug reading this, how it flowed, what was revealed as it went along. Thanks for sharing this with us.


Greg Schwartz said...

Jim - looks like you can get "pop up" straight from the author himself... here's the info from tinywords --

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Ed B, thanks for the Mickey Vernon - and reminding us all about the lack of integration for such a long time ...

Jay and Jim, glad you dug the "Baseball Canto" and thanks, Greg, for pointing Jim to where he can get a copy of ed m's "pop up"

Lisa, thanks, your remarks, means a lot - as you may imagine, those things we wake up with on our mind at 3 am really have a life of their own, the post almost having written itself (as with so much of the best of any kind of writing) -

ed markowski said...

don, ed b., greg, jim h,
charles, jack, john
and lisa...

thanks for turning this pop-up into a homerun.

as for the pinchbook, i've got six left, three are spoken for.

gave most of them away last summer at the chauruaqua institution prior to our presentation. the film of that presentation is available on chautauqua's "FORA TV"

contact don for my email address. the last three are free.

lastly, don, you might want to submit this post to the elysian fields quarterly. efq is a great magazine, features top notch writing and comes at baseball from a realistic cultural approach rather than the romanticized approach that's so common.
ed markowski

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

ed: well, thanks for all great overview ... maybe I will take a crack at sending this along to efq ... that would bring me full circle from loving baseball to hating baseball poems to ...

Who knows.


Charl said...

I'm sorry but baseball haiku, especially Markowski's is a special flavor of banal.

People, learn to separate your love of baseball nostalgia from poetry, most poignantly from haiku the poetry that struggles to gain any serious acceptance.

You might as well write 5-7-5 haiku.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


No apologies necessary, I've very much felt what you are talking about concerning baseball haiku, so I understand.

Ed convinced me otherwise, but there ya go ...


Ed Baker said...

full moon

getting to
third base
with her

Home Run!

hey, let us
for the poetry
for the heck of it
and them shitty hot-dogs

mike easton said...

don't you recognize Flarf
when it's right under
your nose?

banal = intentional = avant guard
your senses man.

mike easton

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Hmn, this is a high hard one, so I'm just gonna step to one side ...

Ed Baker said...

I yet have no clue what flarf is!

is flarf those paper fluffy things the girls used to shake when doing cheers and jumping up and down?

as I recall we called them pom-poms...

all flutter and no content!


Ed Baker said...

hey Mike you got some "thing" to posit about 'avant'
well just go to

Oscar Lavant


I think I'll crack another Buddha Beer!

call me., we'll do lunch!