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NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture 12.2 (2004) 175-176

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CD Review

The Los Angeles Bards Live in Pasadena. Producers and mixers Harland Steinberger, Michael C. Ford, and Terry Cannon. Produced for Stone Mountain Entertainment 2003 by HenHouse Studios, Venice CA. Sponsored by The Baseball Reliquary, Monrovia CA.

If more proof were necessary, these poems would show that in America people grow up knowing and appreciating baseball. The term people here includes poets. On this disk, nine West Coast poets show their familiarity with the game through their poems read on August 25, 2002, to enthusiastic listeners in the auditorium of Pasadena Central Library. Some of the poets played the game, while others enjoyed being spectators.

Each of the nine poets recorded in these sixteen tracks is introduced as if he or she were a member of a baseball team. Michael Ford, a poet himself, makes the introductions, claiming he is managing "one of the most important baseball teams in the Poetry League." Ford has an engaging manner and presents his team members in a lighthearted, entertaining way.

First we hear Harry E. Northrup, an actor as well as a published poet. Within a prose narrative about playing ball among the wheat fields of western Nebraska, he gives us a tiny, three-line poem about his baseball addiction, which fits my definition of poetry: a haunting thought or a scene that can be envisioned, described succinctly and beautifully, with an ending that enlightens.

Batting second on Ford's poetry team is Joel Lipman, a full professor at the University of Toledo, who tells us a good story in what sounds more like prose than poetry. The story is worth listening to. It recounts the way Joel, as a seventeen-year-old, rescued the passed-out Joe Pepitone from a room above a bar [End Page 176] and got him to the ballpark on time for the game. Lipman reads well, especially the quotations he includes.

Batting third is Philomene Long, a Zen Buddhist and a longtime member of the West Coast Beats. Long reads for us a poem that is perhaps the best one of the entire set. It's based on the idea that Philomene, spending an afternoon at the ballpark with Marcus Aurelius, is trying to persuade the philosopher-emperor that Kirk Gibson ought to be an exception to his dictum that "the pursuit of the unattainable is insanity." I haven't been able to find this phrase in a translation of the work of Marcus Aurelius, and actually, it sounds more like the laments of Ecclesiastes (Long is a former nun), but the poem presents a clever idea in felicitous wording and gives us a satisfying ending. Some of the lines even rhyme. The only drawback to the poem is Long's delivery. In reading the poem she suddenly puts on an entirely different voice. Using a lower pitch she creates a gruff, growly delivery, and instead of using the customary intonation, she declaims. The resulting rendition detracts considerably from the poem itself.

Fred Voss, who left academic study to work in factories, bats next. He presents two slight poems, "On Stage" and "Still in the Game," which include a few felicitous lines. After Fred comes the imaginative Chef Guillaume, who asks the pointed question, "How does God fit into baseball?" The resulting metaphor entertained us all hugely (I imagined myself part of the audience).

Joan Jobe Smith, who is Fred Voss's wife, gives us an incident that reflects poorly on Ted Williams, whom she once served breakfast at a coffee shop where she worked. The next hitter, Eloise Klein Healy, presents two poems, one too personal to convey a universal truth. The other, "Double Play," cleverly describes the ball field in Gertrude Steinish language.

Gerald Locklin then delivers a narrative piece called "Opening Day," about growing up with baseball, in which "the nuns led the kids in rosaries for the team with the most good Catholics." Finally, Ford himself takes a turn with "Grounding Out in Southern...


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