May 28, 2004
Analysis of Baseball
Poem: "Analysis of Baseball," by May Swenson, from The Complete Poems to Solve. © Macmillan Publishing Co. Reprinted with permission.
Analysis of Baseball
and the mitt.
bat, or it
hit ball, bat
off bat, flies
air, or thuds
to take bat's
keep the date.
Ball goes in
(thwack) to mitt,
and goes out
ball gets hit
(pow) when bat
to a place
has to quit
and the fans.
on a diamond,
and for fun.
home, and it's
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of Romantic poet Thomas Moore, born in Dublin, Ireland (1779). He's best known for his ten-volume collection Irish Melodies (1808), which contains poems such as "The Last Rose of Summer" and "Oft in the Stilly Night."
It's the birthday of Australian novelist Patrick White, born in London, England while his parents were there on a visit in 1912. He grew up in Australia at a time when Australians still considered the United Kingdom their home. He traveled widely and wrote novels set in London and the United States, but he's best known for his novels about pioneers in Australia, such as The Tree of Man (1955) and Voss (1957). He said that the subject of these novels was "the great Australian emptiness, in which the mind of man is the least of possessions." In 1973 he became the first Australian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
It's the birthday of novelist and poet Fred Chappell, born in Canton, North Carolina (1936). His novels include Look Back All the Green Valley (1999), It Is Time, Lord (1963) and Dagon (1968); and his collections of poems include Family Gathering: Poems (2000).
It's the birthday of novelist Walker Percy, born in Birmingham, Alabama. (1916). He was working as a psychiatrist when he caught tuberculosis, and he spent two years recovering from the disease. In bed, he started reading existentialist philosophers and decided to become a writer. He later said, "[Tuberculosis was] the best disease I ever had. If I hadn't had it, I might be a second-rate shrink practicing in Birmingham, at best." He's best known for his first novel, The Moviegoer (1961), about a stockbroker who tries to get over a nervous breakdown by spending all his time at the movies.
Percy wrote, "[We] live in a deranged age, more deranged than usual, because in spite of great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing."
It's the birthday of poet May Swenson, born in Logan, Utah (1919). Her parents were Swedish immigrants who came to the United States as converts to Mormonism. She was the first of ten children, and she became the black sheep of the family when she started questioning the Mormon faith at the age of thirteen. She moved to New York City in her twenties and supported herself as a secretary, writing poems when she was supposed to be writing speeches for executives.
She published her first collection, Another Animal, in 1954, and she became known for her playful poems about everything from DNA to baseball to astronauts. She wrote traditional poems and experimental poems, poems in the shape of objects, poems for children, and poems from the point of view of animals.
It's the birthday of the man who created James Bond, novelist Ian Fleming, born in London, England (1908). He wanted to be a diplomat, but he failed the Foreign Office examination and decided to go into journalism. He worked for the Reuters News Service in London, Moscow, and Berlin, and then during World War II he served as the assistant to the British director of naval intelligence.
After the war, he bought a house in Jamaica, where he spent his time fishing and gambling and bird watching. He started to get bored, so he decided to try writing a novel about a secret agent. He named the agent James Bond after the author of a bird watching book. He said, "I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find." He made Bond a much more heroic version of himself: a member of the British intelligence service, code name 007, with a license to kill.
The first Bond novel, Casino Royale, sold about 7,000 copies, and Fleming followed it with four more that sold less and less well. Critics said he was good at writing about places, but that was about it. Fleming had a newborn son at home, and he was disappointed that these books weren't making more money to help support the family, so for his next Bond story he wrote a screenplay instead, and he filled it with more psychopaths and beautiful women than usual. No one in the movie industry would buy it, so he turned it into the novel From Russia, with Love (1957), and it became a huge international bestseller.
By the time he died, in 1964, Fleming had produced fourteen Bond novels, and he had seen two of them turned into movies. His novels have now sold more than fifty million copies, and each novel has been made into a film. It's estimated that over half the world's population has seen at least one James Bond movie.
Fleming said, "James Bond is…the feverish dreams of the author of what he might have been—bang, bang, bang, kiss, kiss, that sort of stuff. It's what you would expect of an adolescent mind—which I happen to possess."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®