baseball is…

Life? Quite possibly. Poetry? Most definitely. Poetry in motion, sure, but also as words on a page.

Empty baseball field
–A robin,
Hops along the bench

Jack Kerouac (threw and batted right-handed) composed this, the first American baseball haiku, in 1959. The first ever baseball haiku was written by Japanese poet SHIKI Masaoka (threw and batted left-handed) in 1890.

spring breeze
this grassy field makes me
want to play catch

More than two hundred delightful examples of baseball poetry are collected in Baseball Haiku, edited by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura. A short informative essay introduces the major poets in the development of modern haiku in both Japan and America and suggests some of the natural affinity shared by baseball and haiku, each having a connection with Nature and a focus on the individual moment. Each of the poets is introduced with notes about his poetry and interest in baseball.

from Randy Brooks

carrying his glove
the boy’s dog follows him
to the baseball field

from SEI Imae

walking home
with his glove on his head
shrieking cicadas

from Tom Painting

bases loaded
a full moon clears
the right field fence

from Brenda Gannam

handsome pitcher
my eyes drift down
to the mound

The apparent simplicity of Haiku is notoriously tempting to the poetry rookie. Who can resist the temptation to try one?

game on TV
a roar pulls my eyes
up from a book

Two poems by Li Bai

From historical sources, myths and stories, and the poetry of Li Bai and his contemporaries, Ha Jin conjures a vivid personality in a richly detailed world a millennium past.  The Banished Immortal, A Life of Li Bai draws us into the life of an extraordinary artist in the turbulent middle years of the Tang Dynasty.  Li Bai never achieved the official recognition that he sought but his poetry was widely admired and loved.  The nickname “the banished immortal” suggests it is so excellent that he must be a heavenly personage, banished to earth for some misdeed.

This short poem was chosen for the UN stamp set commemorating World Poetry Day.

Reflection In A Quiet Night

Moonlight spreads before my bed.

I wonder if it’s hoarfrost on the ground.

I raise my head to watch the moon

and lowering it, I think of home.

Another poem written for his uncle, a conscientious low-ranking official discouraged by court corruption.

Song For Accompanying Uncle Hua on Xie Tiao’s Tower

Yesterday, having left me, couldn’t be pressed to stay.  

Today, still disturbing me, makes me more upset.

The long wind is sending the autumn geese far away,

And viewing them from this high tower, we should drink more.

Your essays are fresh and strong like those of the Han dynasty

While my poetry resembles Xie Tiao’s in vigor and beauty.

We both have lofty spirit, thinking of soaring

To the sky to grab hold of the clear moon.

I draw my sword to cut water, which won’t stop flowing,

And I raise my cup to douse my sorrow, which grows stronger.

Ah, life is such a sad thing that tomorrow

I will undo my hair and sail away in a little boat.