Sunday, April 03, 2011

Poem: May Swenson

Baseball season has officially begun, and I haven't blogged about it at all, not just because I've been busy, but because, to a degree surprising to me, I find myself less interested than in the past. I've been feeling this way with all professional sports, but whereas I could point to specific reasons (the strikes, the lockouts, the greed of the owners and many players, the misuse of public dollars to underwrite stadiums for millionaires and billionaires with little beyond ephemeral emotional and psychological benefits for the majority of people) for my waning interest in the NBA, NFL, the NHL (I still haven't gotten over their owner-labor crisis years ago), with baseball it feels as though it's struck suddenly. Perhaps it's maturity or just growing old.

Perhaps it's a deeper sense that rather than taking comfort in this pastime as the country and world fall apart, I find it more of a distraction than anything. Perhaps it was the refusal of superstar Albert Pujols, to accept a contract of somewhere around $200 million for 8 years, allegedly with an ownership stake in the team once he required.  This sort of contract would have been par for the course in the 1990s or even the money-crazy early 2000s, but since the economic crash? Not that someone already as rich as Pujols (who received a $100 million contract in 2004) or many of his peers would notice.

But--a little flame still catches for baseball. I have, in fact, glanced at the box scores of the Cardinals, Yankees, Cubs, and a few other teams. I have the free version of MLB Baseball on my phone. And I hope that the Cardinals, rather than the Cubs, can come back with a deal--say, one leg of the Saint Louis Arch?--to persuade their superstar to sign up again before a rival team snatches him. That is, if the rival team has the money to lavish on him as well.

Here then is a baseball poem, titled "Analysis of Baseball," by May Swenson (1913-1989, photo above by Laverne Harrell Clark © Arizona State University). Swenson was one the prolific 20th century American poets and a true original. An editor at New Directions until 1966, she later went on to serve as a writer in residence at a number of universities (this was the era before writers entered or even looked to the academy as a chief place of employment), conducted workshops at many different venues, and published 17 books of her own poetry and translations of other poets, as well as works for children, plays, and critical essays. Among her awards was the Bollingen Prize from Yale University Press. When I was younger she was very widely known and read, though I don't know if she's on minds and tongues as much these days, though she ought to be. Here then is her baseball poem, and yours.


It’s about
the ball,
the bat,
and the mitt.
Ball hits
bat, or it
hits mitt.
Bat doesn’t
hit ball, bat
meets it.
Ball bounces
off bat, flies
air, or thuds
ground (dud)
or it
fits mitt.

Bat waits
for ball
to mate.
Ball hates
to take bat’s
bait. Ball
flirts, bat’s
late, don’t
keep the date.
Ball goes in
(thwack) to mitt,
and goes out
(thwack) back
to mitt.
Ball fits
mitt, but
not all
the time.
ball gets hit
(pow) when bat
meets it,
and sails
to a place
where mitt
has to quit
in disgrace.
That’s about
the bases
about 40,000
fans exploded.

It’s about
the ball,
the bat,
the mitt,
the bases
and the fans.
It’s done
on a diamond,
and for fun.
It’s about
home, and it’s
about run.

May Swenson, “Analysis of Baseball” from New and Selected Things Taking Place (Boston: Atlantic/Little Brown, 1978). Copyright © 1978 by May Swenson. All rights reserved.

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