Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday Poetry: "Baseball and Writing," by Marianne Moore

Over the next few days, I'll be attending three baseball games in the company of my brother. So, with no further ado, today's poem is Marianne Moore's "Baseball and Writing." You can find today's poem in Moore's Complete Poems. Although... I disagree with her assertion that baseball is exciting. I, for one, can't wait for it to get jazzed up a bit--Futurama's Blernsball would be an acceptable upgrade.

"Baseball and Writing"
by Marianne Moore

(Suggested by post-game broadcasts)

Fanaticism?  No.  Writing is exciting and baseball is like writing.    You can never tell with either       how it will go       or what you will do;    generating excitement--    a fever in the victim--    pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.  Victim in what category? Owlman watching from the press box?  To whom does it apply?  Who is excited?  Might it be I?  It's a pitcher's battle all the way--a duel-- a catcher's, as, with cruel    puma paw, Elston Howard lumbers lightly       back to plate.  (His spring        de-winged a bat swing.)    They have that killer instinct;    yet Elston--whose catching    arm has hurt them all with the bat--  when questioned, says, unenviously,    "I'm very satisfied.  We won."  Shorn of the batting crown, says, "We";  robbed by a technicality.  When three players on a side play three positions and modify conditions,    the massive run need not be everything.       "Going, going . . . "  Is       it?  Roger Maris    has it, running fast.  You will    never see a finer catch.  Well . . .    "Mickey, leaping like the devil"--why  gild it, although deer sounds better-- snares what was speeding towards its treetop nest,  one-handing the souvenir-to-be  meant to be caught by you or me.  Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral; he could handle any missile.    He is no feather.  "Strike! . . . Strike two!"       Fouled back.  A blur.       It's gone.  You would infer    that the bat had eyes.    He put the wood to that one. Praised, Skowron says, "Thanks, Mel.    I think I helped a little bit."  All business, each, and modesty.         Blanchard, Richardson, Kubek, Boyer.  In that galaxy of nine, say which  won the pennant?  Each.  It was he.  Those two magnificent saves from the knee-throws by Boyer, finesses in twos--    like Whitey's three kinds of pitch and pre-       diagnosis       with pick-off psychosis.    Pitching is a large subject.    Your arm, too true at first, can learn to    catch your corners--even trouble  Mickey Mantle.  ("Grazed a Yankee! My baby pitcher, Montejo!"  With some pedagogy,  you'll be tough, premature prodigy.)  They crowd him and curve him and aim for the knees.  Trying indeed!  The secret implying:    "I can stand here, bat held steady."       One may suit him;        none has hit him.    Imponderables smite him.    Muscle kinks, infections, spike wounds    require food, rest, respite from ruffians.  (Drat it!  Celebrity costs privacy!) Cow's milk, "tiger's milk," soy milk, carrot juice,  brewer's yeast (high-potency--  concentrates presage victory  sped by Luis Arroyo, Hector Lopez-- deadly in a pinch.  And "Yes,    it's work; I want you to bear down,       but enjoy it       while you're doing it."    Mr. Houk and Mr. Sain,    if you have a rummage sale,    don't sell Roland Sheldon or Tom Tresh.  Studded with stars in belt and crown, the Stadium is an adastrium.  O flashing Orion,  your stars are muscled like the lion. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fan Fiction Isn't Always a Bad Thing

For some reason, I've spent the past few weeks in a Sherlock Holmes frame of mind. Maybe it's because I binge-watched a few Columbo episodes, or maybe it's because I read Nicholas Meyer's The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1974) during my long stay in Pennsylvania and then revisited Michael Chabon's The Final Solution (2004). Meyer's novel explicitly positions itself in the Sherlock Holmes canon by claiming that the novel is an as-yet unpublished memoir penned by the steadfast Dr. John Watson, while Chabon's novel--never mentioning Holmes by name--draws some pretty obvious parallels to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's inimitable consulting detective.

Now, where fan fiction gets dangerous is when it starts to flirt with actual historical events. Chabon's novel, which involves an elderly Holmes ripping through a mystery and reassembling its components, all the while criticizing the infirmity of his aged mind, stays strictly in the realm of the imaginary. Meyer's The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, however, claims to be a significant revision to the Holmes canon, as Meyer's rendition of Watson claims that Holmes's alleged death is a patent falsehood: Holmes vanished in order to kick his opium addiction.

And that's when Meyer commits himself to one of the greatest fanfic mistakes: introducing real-life, historical figures to the narrative. In this case, Dr. Sigmund Freud.

But Meyer's interpretation of Freud is surprisingly... human. (This differs drastically from a pretty awful made-for-TV movie I saw, starring Christopher Lee as Holmes and Patrick MacNee as Watson--they're in Vienna, where they meet a Sigmund Freud whose accent makes Joey Tribbiani's portrayal of Freud in an episode of Friends seem like an Oscar-worthy performance.) Freud, in Meyer's novel, comes across as a therapist, interested in his patient's recovery--not as a crackpotted stereotype interested only in pinning everyone's problems to childhood sexuality.

I still think, though, that Chabon's route is the safer of the two--and likewise results in the stronger book, as it doesn't cause the reader to pause and question the story. Chabon, who sticks to the particulars of scene and place, evokes reality in that manner, while Meyer skirts a dangerous line in attempting to use historical figures as characters, as opposed to compasses for indicating time and place.

(And if you want more on fan fiction, I defer to Strong Bad, who covers this topic in one of his scathing emails.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday Poetry: "Harvest," by Louise Glück

So: I've recently returned to Newark, New Jersey, after a month spent in Pennsylvania. It was a difficult period of time, with emotional highs and lows--but that's hardly the topic for today's post, which I hope marks a return to the normalcy of these jottings that I had [once again] achieved at the start of June.

We'll start off slow, with a poem that explores the relationships between the living and the dead, between lessons and practicing that knowledge. In "Harvest," Louise Glück juxtaposes gathering food to sustain oneself against the inevitable death of the plants, spurring one life while uprooting another. But it's neither entirely good nor entirely bad; this poem suggests that the strength we draw from harvests (either the literal kind or the metaphorical reaping of wisdom from the fields of our forebears' experiences and tales) is at once a gift and a curse. We are cursed, in that we have lost that source; we are fortunate, in that we carry those fruits within. Yet, we exist precisely because of this conundrum.

"Harvest," by Louise Glück

It grieves me to think of you in the past--

Look at you, blindly clinging to earth
as though it were the vineyards of heaven
while the fields go up in flames around you--

Ah, little ones, how unsubtle you are:
it is at once the gift and the torment.

If what you fear in death
is punishment beyond this, you need not
fear death:

how many times must I destroy my own creation
to teach you
this is your punishment:

with one gesture I established you
in time and in paradise.

(You can find "Harvest" and many other poems in Glück's collection The Wild Iris.)