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 myselfed 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 EyesYou turned back
for a lasting look;
I am salt.
Something is wrong.
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?Issa
translated by David Lanoue