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Line Drives: 100 Contemporary Baseball Poems

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"We wait for baseball all winter long," Bill Littlefield wrote in Boston Magazine a decade ago, "or rather, we remember it and anticipate it at the same time. We recreate what we have known and we imagine what we are going to do next. Maybe that's what poets do, too." Editors Brooke Horvath and Tim Wiles unite their own passion for baseball and poetry in this collection, Line Drives: 100 Contemporary Baseball Poems, providing a forum for ninety-two poets. These poems are fun, fresh, angry, nostalgic, meditative, and meant to be read aloud. They
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Overview

"We wait for baseball all winter long," Bill Littlefield wrote in Boston Magazine a decade ago, "or rather, we remember it and anticipate it at the same time. We recreate what we have known and we imagine what we are going to do next. Maybe that's what poets do, too." Editors Brooke Horvath and Tim Wiles unite their own passion for baseball and poetry in this collection, Line Drives: 100 Contemporary Baseball Poems, providing a forum for ninety-two poets. These poems are fun, fresh, angry, nostalgic, meditative, and meant to be read aloud. They are keen on taking us deeply into baseball as sport and intent on offering countless metaphors for exploring history, religion, love, family, and self-identity. The poets speak of murder and ghost runners and old ball gloves, of baseball as a tie that binds families -- and indeed the nation -- together, of the game as a stage upon which no-nonsense grit and skill are routinely displayed, and of the delight experienced in being one amid a mindlessly happy crowd. This book is true to the game's long season and to the lives of those the game engages.
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Editorial Reviews

Elysian Fields Quarterly

Editors Brooke Horvath of Kent State University and Tim Wiles of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum have collected an impressive array of poems that offers readers a chance to reflect on the variety of ways baseball comes up in our lives. The range of the poetry in this volume gives everyone something to consider, as the featured writers explore love, friendship, spirituality, loss, dreams­ - all within the context of the game itself.
For example, Joseph Stanton's "Stealing Home" describes both that amazing baseball feat and the difficul­ties someone faces when trying to return to a childhood home that now feels like a "strange city," while Richard Behm's "Looking for the Baseball" raises questions about changing beliefs as we grow up. "That intellect should doubt itself, / is that the beginning of faith again," and if so, is it of "the old simple faith"? "No," Behan answers. "Something/ else then, a greater faith, and less." He uses the search for a missing baseball as a metaphor for coming to grips with one's loss of faith, and suggests that, perhaps like the baseball found on the edge of a field, the answer was always there before us.
In "The Cure," Katherine Harer writes that baseball brings out "our best hope the best we have to give" as "we coach the best out of one anoth­er." There is innocence in the hope we have that each batter could be the one to start the rally, and that is why "baseball is a good antidote for death." It is

pumping belief
into this one afternoon

you can do it
you can do it for us
do it now come on
do it now

David Baker's "Cardinals in Spring," like Harer's poem, gives new life to the idea that baseball can inspire hope in all of us. Looking back to Busch Stadium in 1968, describing the fans in the stadium now as much as then, he asks, "aren't we, in each other, renewed?"
There are few cliched images in this collection, and any poems that at first appear to cover old terrain soon turn those images into new insights. David C. Ward's "Isn't it pretty to think so?" reconsiders the image of a father and son bonding as they play catch. He offers us the idealized image and then a different reality, one where a "beaten father" beats down his son with "a stinging rebuke" as the two play catch. "'Come on! / Be a man!"' he yells, "stitches thrumming / redly, welting a child's palm."
Other poems describe kids learn­ing the game, adults playing for fun, and former major leaguers engaging their skills again, albeit diminished with age. "The Retarded Children Play Baseball" shows us a game where no one really cares that the offi­cial rules are not being followed. "Both teams / are so in love with this moment / when the bat makes the ball jump / or fly" that it does not matter that they will probably never learn the "right" way to play the game.
For fans of the game's history, there are poems that take us inside specific games or seasons, consider the importance of Mantle or Ruth, talk about the tragedy of Donnie Moore, and relate the importance of Ernie Harwell to an elderly fan. The late Dan Quisenberry's contribution, "Baseball Cards," chronicles his career through the pictures fans saw on his cards and reveals what was really happening (nerves, stress, losing time with family, fear of the end of a career) behind those public images.
Charles Bukowski's "Betting on the Muse" reminds us that while pro­fessional athletes' lives may seem per­fect, they often struggle because their successes come when they are so young. He writes:

this is why I chose to be a writer.
if you're worth just half-a-damn
you can keep your hustle going
until the last minute of the last day.
you can keep
getting better instead of worse,
you can still keep
hitting them over the wall.

The contributors to Line Drives are proof of Bukowski s message; rarely is an anthology of poetry so consistently strong. The poems put baseball into perspective-examining how it fits into our lives, how it forms a back­drop for important memories, how it offers us chances to consider past friendships. Read this anthology; then share it with friends who love base­ball, who love poetry, or who merely want an opportunity to reflect on life itself.

— Jennifer M. Stolpa

From the Publisher

Line Drives: 100 Contemporary Baseball Poems deserves a Hall of Fame nomination for the sheer number and variety of poems it anthologizes for the first time. The strongest praise, however, goes to the quality of the collection. These are fine poems by writers at the top of their game, and the editors’ introduction is both wise and heartfelt. A grand slam!”—Don Johnson, editor of Hummers, Knucklers, and Slow Curves: Contemporary Baseball Poems

Elysian Fields Quarterly - Jennifer M. Stolpa

Editors Brooke Horvath of Kent State University and Tim Wiles of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum have collected an impressive array of poems that offers readers a chance to reflect on the variety of ways baseball comes up in our lives. The range of the poetry in this volume gives everyone something to consider, as the featured writers explore love, friendship, spirituality, loss, dreams­ - all within the context of the game itself.

For example, Joseph Stanton's "Stealing Home" describes both that amazing baseball feat and the difficul­ties someone faces when trying to return to a childhood home that now feels like a "strange city," while Richard Behm's "Looking for the Baseball" raises questions about changing beliefs as we grow up. "That intellect should doubt itself, / is that the beginning of faith again," and if so, is it of "the old simple faith"? "No," Behan answers. "Something/ else then, a greater faith, and less." He uses the search for a missing baseball as a metaphor for coming to grips with one's loss of faith, and suggests that, perhaps like the baseball found on the edge of a field, the answer was always there before us.

In "The Cure," Katherine Harer writes that baseball brings out "our best hope the best we have to give" as "we coach the best out of one anoth­er." There is innocence in the hope we have that each batter could be the one to start the rally, and that is why "baseball is a good antidote for death." It is

pumping belief

into this one afternoon

you can do it

you can do it for us

do it now come on

do it now

David Baker's "Cardinals in Spring," like Harer's poem, gives new life to the idea that baseball can inspire hope in all of us. Looking back to Busch Stadium in 1968, describing the fans in the stadium now as much as then, he asks, "aren't we, in each other, renewed?"

There are few cliched images in this collection, and any poems that at first appear to cover old terrain soon turn those images into new insights. David C. Ward's "Isn't it pretty to think so?" reconsiders the image of a father and son bonding as they play catch. He offers us the idealized image and then a different reality, one where a "beaten father" beats down his son with "a stinging rebuke" as the two play catch. "'Come on! / Be a man!"' he yells, "stitches thrumming / redly, welting a child's palm."

Other poems describe kids learn­ing the game, adults playing for fun, and former major leaguers engaging their skills again, albeit diminished with age. "The Retarded Children Play Baseball" shows us a game where no one really cares that the offi­cial rules are not being followed. "Both teams / are so in love with this moment / when the bat makes the ball jump / or fly" that it does not matter that they will probably never learn the "right" way to play the game.

For fans of the game's history, there are poems that take us inside specific games or seasons, consider the importance of Mantle or Ruth, talk about the tragedy of Donnie Moore, and relate the importance of Ernie Harwell to an elderly fan. The late Dan Quisenberry's contribution, "Baseball Cards," chronicles his career through the pictures fans saw on his cards and reveals what was really happening (nerves, stress, losing time with family, fear of the end of a career) behind those public images.

Charles Bukowski's "Betting on the Muse" reminds us that while pro­fessional athletes' lives may seem per­fect, they often struggle because their successes come when they are so young. He writes:

this is why I chose to be a writer.

if you're worth just half-a-damn

you can keep your hustle going

until the last minute of the last day.

you can keep

getting better instead of worse,

you can still keep

hitting them over the wall.

The contributors to Line Drives are proof of Bukowski s message; rarely is an anthology of poetry so consistently strong. The poems put baseball into perspective-examining how it fits into our lives, how it forms a back­drop for important memories, how it offers us chances to consider past friendships. Read this anthology; then share it with friends who love base­ball, who love poetry, or who merely want an opportunity to reflect on life itself.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809324392
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Series: Writing Baseball Series
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 14.40 (w) x 22.20 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Brooke Horvath is a professor of English at Kent State University and the author of two collections of poetry—In a Neighborhood of Dying Light and Consolation at Ground Zero. He has served as a book review editor for Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature. 

Tim Wiles is the director of research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His baseball writings include a column, “Letters in the Dirt,” in the Cooperstown Freeman’s Journal and poems in Elysian Fields Quarterly and Fan. 

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Editor's Acknowledgments
Editors' Introduction
The Origin and Purpose of Baseball 3
Spring Fever 5
Stealing Home 6
Spring Training 7
Little League Tryouts 8
The Catch 9
Baseball 10
The Player 12
1947 13
The Retarded Children Play Baseball 15
Asked for a Happy Memory of Her Father, She Remembers Wrigley Field 17
Sweet Spot 18
Something I Could Tell You about Love 20
To Fungo the Torn Ones 21
The Baseball Boys of 1964 23
It Ain't Over ... 27
Instant Out 28
Baseball Fields Seen from the Air 29
Cardinals in Spring 30
Stop Action 34
How to Hit a Home Run 37
Blyleven's Fourth Shutout, June, 1985 39
Baseball 40
Black Ink 41
A Dream of Third Base 43
Glory 45
Aesthetics 47
Ode to Apple Pie 49
A Softball Game 51
Listening to a Baseball Game 53
Singles 54
Players 56
Crowd at the Stadium 58
In the Red Seats 59
Supernatural 61
Minor League Rainout, Iowa 63
Polish-American Night, Tiger Stadium 65
Biographical Note 67
Softball 68
Night Baseball, 1947 70
A Baseball Game 73
September Pears 74
The Gamer 75
Photo of a Minor League Baseball Team, ca. 1952 76
Where Baseball's the Only Game in Town 77
Baseball Cards 78
Geronimo at Short 80
Something about Certain Old Baseball Fields 82
Night Baseball in the American West 83
Is Reality One or Many? 85
Southpaw 87
Returning to the Field 88
The Big League 90
Visiting My Boyhood Friend after His Stroke 92
Hits 93
Isn't it pretty to think so? 95
Catch 96
Old Baseball Found under a Bush 98
Everything But Everything 99
Limited Power 101
True Story 105
Baseball Haiku 106
Dreams Should Not Dog Great Center Fielders 107
The Career of Lou Proctor 109
Question and Answer 111
World Series, 1968, Southeast Asia 113
Short History of a Baseball 116
Play by Play 119
My Father, on the Day He Died 121
Baseball in Ohio 123
Betting on the Muse 125
Telephone Call 128
Williams in Autumn 129
October Play 131
Night Baseball 132
My Last Hit 134
Dream of a Hanging Curve 135
America without Baseball 137
Tired of Loss and Sin 140
Winter at the Ball Field 144
World Series, Game 5 147
Softball Dreams 148
Voices of the Sea 150
Archives 152
Poem for My Father 154
If You Know Me at All 156
Final Play 157
Why I Love Baseball 158
Line Drive Caught by the Grace of God 160
Listening to the Ballgame 162
The Cure 164
A Dharma Talk by Johnny Roseboro, Boulder, Colorado, March 23, 1983 166
Carolina League Old Timers Game 168
Pearly Babe 170
Sweet 171
Question: If You Had Only 24 Hours to Live, What Would You Do? 173
Shall I Compare Thee to a Triple Play? 175
Solid Single 177
Looking for the Baseball 178
Last Baseball Dream of the Season 182
Acknowledgments 185
Contributors 195
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