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Line Drives: 100 Contemporary Baseball Poems (Writing Baseball) Paperback – March 29, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


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

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 volumegives 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 wehave 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 backto 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 imageand 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 isan 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 Elysian Fields Quarterly 2008-09-29)

From the Publisher

"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 re-create what we have known and we imagine what we are going to do next. Maybe that's what poets do, too."

Poetry and baseball are occasions for well-put passion and expressive pondering, and just as passionate attention transforms the prose of everyday life into poetry, it also transforms this game we write about, play, or watch. 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. Line after line, like baseball itself game after game and season after season, these poems manage to make the old and the familiar new and surprising.

The poems in these pages invite interrogation, and the reader-like the true baseball fan-must be willing to play the game, for 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. Each poem delivers images of pure beauty as 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Series: Writing Baseball
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press; 1st edition (March 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809324407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809324408
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The anthology begins with a leadoff home run with Richard Behn's "The Origin and Purpose of Baseball." By relying on recognized talents, the collection maintains a winning record throughout its season. ButiIn the minor leagues there are good hitters who may never make it to The Show. If there is to be a second edition, I would hope that the editor would pay more attention to the wealth of good poetry in Spitball Magazine.
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When it comes to baseball poetry, nobody knows his stuff better than Tim Wiles, and that expertise is evident in the outstanding quality of this collection. Many of the expected poets are here, but so are many I'd never heard of before whose work I am glad to have been exposed to. The poems range in tone from somber and serious to playful and irreverent. One of my particular favorites is the entry by former pitcher Dan Quisenberry, who was a funny guy and had quite a way with words.
I keep this book on my nightstand and try to read one poem each night before I go to sleep. Except I often have a hard time reading just one.
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I'm not a fan of "free verse". Only 2 of the poems out of the 100 in this book, rhyme. I asked one of the authors why not more rhyming poems. He hasn,t answered yet. Wish I'd known.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this collection. Sometimes with anthologies of sports-related fiction/poetry, I've been disappointed because there seemed to be differing levels of quality. With Line Drives, I was satisfied because all of the poems were worth reading-they offered a consistently high level of quality and all had interesting insights or fun ideas. Then there were a number of them that were among the best baseball poems I have ever read. Katharine Harer's "The Cure" speaks with a tremendous depth of understanding of the game and the emotions that go into our continued obsession with it. Joseph Stanton's "Stealing Home" uses an engaging poetic technique to compare the difficult return to the place where we grew up with that difficult play in the game. Dan Quisenberry's "Baseball Cards" offers an important perspective on players' insecurities and the myriad aspects of their lives that fans never see.
I also appreciated that the poems collected here do not revert to cliché comparisons or images when they connect baseball to life. In fact, some of them work against clichés. David C. Ward's "Isn't it pretty to think so?" challenges the idealization of fathers and sons playing catch and reminds us that individual experience is much more powerful and thought-provoking than any (false) perfect image. The poems felt fresh and that was in large part because many of the poets used personal experience as the starting point, reaching out to the game to make connections between their lives and those of the reader. As a result, I think that even those who are not baseball fans would appreciate and enjoy many of these poems. As a baseball fan, I know I'll enjoy rereading this collection and I think most baseball fans would as well.
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