April 5, 2017

National (Pastime) Poetry Month


A lost e. e. cummings poem about baseball

Ahh yes. The fresh-cut grass. The crack of the bat. The roar of the crowd. These can only signal one thing: National Poetry Month is upon us. And in a happy coincidence, it overlaps with the thrilling first days of the baseball season.

Perhaps it is more than mere coincidence, so literary a game is baseball. And there is much to be read.

Walt Whitman wrote this marvelous paean to the game in its early days (he, of course, managed to call Americans sissies and extol the virtues of wrestling in the process). The tragic grace of the double play inspired the great Franklin Pierce Adams poem “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.” George Plimpton invented a record-shattering pitcher for a Sports Illustrated hoax. Hemingway took the great columnist Ring Lardner’s name as his own for his school paper. Hell, I even enjoy reading a yearly take on the sport’s resistance to change.

As Carrie Anne Welsh (after Marianne Moore) writes over at ESPN.com, baseball and the act of writing have much in common:

Think of all the training a baseball player undergoes — physical strength building, stamina practice, hand-eye coordination, learning rules and memorizing strategies… all of it leading to a simple, elegant performance that must be executed with ease.

A good poem also makes writing a poem look easy. Like a zen koan, you are forced to stop thinking and only do, only feel. A good poem doesn’t answer anything, but it draws your attention to something deep.

It follows, then, that the highest form of writing must be the epics written about the glory and fame the Cleveland Indians. Though the spate of minor works coming out this season are also enjoyable.

Happy opening week, everybody.



Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.