Friday, October 26, 2007

Baseball and Poetry

Gregory Luce, who writes poems and other stuff out in Washington, DC, calls himself "Enchilada" for unknown reasons. He alerted his readers to an article about poetry and baseball, which you can enjoy here. The article has, among other things, an excerpt from Donald Hall's classic collection "Fathers Playing Catch With Sons." That book has always struck me as a little too sentimental, but I still like it.

With apologies to Bernard Malamud and W.P. Kinsella, my favorite baseball-themed literary work is Mikhail Horowitz's little gem, "Big League Poets." ** A few selections from that book appear below. I have to admit they lack something without the accompanying pictures of the poets dressed in vintage baseball uniforms. I know next to nothing about copyright and fair use and such, so have no idea if I could legally post digital copies of a couple of those illustrations here. And since our #2 son took the scanner with him to college, it's just a hypothetical question anyway.

Vladimir 'Mad Dog" Mayakovsky was an infamous hit man for the Boston Bolsheviks and a well-red Red for the Red Sox. His stentorian batting stance revolutionized the game's rhetoric. Primarily a borscht-stop, he also played extreme left field.

Gerard Manley "Hoppity" Hopkins pitched with 'sprung rhythm' for the Jersey Jesuits in their glory days. Eventually his fastball lost its wimpling wings and he was, in his own words, "pitched past pitch of grief," a leaden echo of his former self.

A centaur-fielder for the Trojan Horsemen, Homer was the father of big league poetry, inventing the epic poem and the epic clout (which still retains his name today) with one great swing of his wine-dark bat.

Richard 'Beanstalk' Brautigan was a troutfisher in America. He also pitched for the Big Sur Confederate Generals and kept the batters fishing with his spitball soaked in watermelon sugar.

As every schoolboy doubtless knows, Long John Milton pitched for Paradise, and Paradise lost.
I hope the Rockies make it a competitive series, but my loyalties are still with the Red Sox, mostly because I spent quite a bit of time in and around Boston as a kid and because of Basegirl's estimable blog.

** Copyright 1978 Mikhail Horowitz; published by City Lights books


Greg said...

Thanks for the shout-out here and the nice comment on my blog! I'm a Texan, so a lot of my username and computer related stuff comes from Tex-Mex food, hence "Enchilada."

Jim H. said...

Thank you, Greg, for not mentioning that I screwed up your name in the initial post. It's been fixed.

Rob Hardy said...

While we're on the subject, I'll go ahead and plug my own baseball essay, which originally appeared in the special baseball issue of New Letters, which also included poetry by the late, great Royals pitcher Dan Quisenberry. My essay is reprinted in the Northfield Arts Guild's Writers' Night e-zine (Fall 2004), available for download as a PDF here. My essay starts on page 15.

Mikhail Horowitz said...

Glad to see someone still digs my antique chapbook, "Big League Poets," although it's true that the captions don't really work without the collages. If your No. 2 son ever deigns to return your scanner, you have my permission to scane and use the images. And thanks, by the way, for crediting me properly; some folks don't take the trouble.

If you're interested, Smoke Signals online magazine recently ran five of my women big-league poets on its website:

My one regret with the book is that I did not include the women bards, simply because there were no women playing major league ball, and I wanted the comedic parallel to be exact. In retrospect, I was in thrall to the hobgoblin of a foolish consistency.

Thanks, also, for printing the Tom Clark poem, which has always been one of my favorites.

Finally, are you hip to Elysian Fields Quarterly, which comes out of your home state? I'm a contributing editor, with a regular column of fanciful rosters and occasional poems and book reviews. Their website is

Best, Mikhail Horowitz

Jim H. said...

Mr. Horowitz:

What a pleasant surprise! I will of course look at the article.

I subscribed to the Minneapolis Review of Baseball and to its successor, EFQ, for many years, but for some reason (sloth?) I let it lapse.

Always enjoyed your rosters. I'm working on one tentatively called the OOOO lineup. Moookie Wilson, Booog Powell, Mooose Haas, etc.

Thanks again for your kind comment.