Monday, April 6, 2009

Donald Hall, Baseball

Donald Hall begins his poem "Extra Innings" this way: "My friend David tells me that Jasper Johns/ never takes his advice, so when David/ suggests "Extra Innings," K.C. picks up/ a bat. Last April the Boston Red Sox/ beat Toronto opening day, then lost/ three straight. At least, Kurt, the season started,/ and even losing three out of four is/ preferable to off-season--as life/ despite its generic unpleasantness/ appears under almost all conditions."

Hall is a New Englander, and a lifelong Red Sox fan. "Extra Innings" appears in his book The Museum of Clear Ideas, a very fine collection that includes, in addition to "Extra Innings," a sequence of baseball poems: The First Inning, The Second Inning, The Third, etc.

To celebrate the start of baseball's regular season AND National Poetry Month, I thought I'd post on this book. See how he discusses baseball and poetry (the crafting of language):

Who can say what his or her work is?
I write out these tentative verses
--K.C. at the Desk, Mudville at bat,
last of the ninth--working in the dark
morning while a cat climbs on my lap
nibbling at pen and paper. For sure,
my pleasure is an habitual
recreational tapping at blocks
of the language, absentmindedly

Or later, life itself:

The bodies of major league baseball
players are young. We age past the field
so quickly; we diminish, watching
over decades, observing the young
as they dodder.

What I find so magical about the poems in The Museum of Clear ideas is how langauge is crafted from the hard block of mythic baseball. That is, baseball serves as a metaphor--a very apt one, in my estimation--for the passing of time.

I am no poet. I read poetry, sadly, sparingly--and it's been a couple years since I read this book. But a glance through its pages reminds me of just how much the book spoke to me. You don't have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the magnitude of Donald Hall's gifts as a poet. His is a sharp tool that taps smartly at "the blocks of the language."

Nothing I write here, especially this late in the day, could do the work justice.

1 comment:

Brian Brodeur said...

So when do I get my book back, Semmel?