Poetry News

"Writing is exciting and baseball is like writing."


Fernando Perez, Tampa Bay Rays outfielder and Columbia University grad, tells the the St. Petersburg Times what's on his World Series night stand:
"Are you staying away from heavy plots during the playoffs?
Actually, what helps me a great deal right now is poetry, like Robert Creeley and John Ashbery. "
This isn't the first time the "baseball beatnik" has stepped up to the plate for poetry.
Perez was the subject of a New York Times profile earlier in the post-season, and there he expressed admiration for Herman Hesse, Annie Dillard, and Howard Zinn. In a Columbia alumni magazine article from 2007, Perez extolled the virtues of Lyn Hejinian's "My Life."
Perez is the first Columbia grad to play in the majors since Lou Gehrig and is primarily a speed and defensive replacement (though with Joe Maddon's Rays, you never know what might happen). In the minor leagues, Perez kept an online journal.
Here's a taste:
"In this way I see baseball as an 'anti-modernity.' It feels as though the men who play and stay in the game indulge in a counter culture, the lifestyle in which all you have to do each day is play. It's rustic. These are reasons why I'm here."
All of which serves as a reminder of "Sports," Kenneth Goldsmith's verbatim transcript of a 2006 Red Sox-Yankees radio broadcast, "Yo-Yo's with Money," Ted Berrigan and Harris Schiff's UA book of drugged out play-by-play, and, of course, Marianne Moore.
UPDATE: A visit to Open Books reminds me (how could I forget?) that Kansas City Royals sidearm slinger Dan Quisenberry wrote poetry, and that Dock Ellis (not Bill Lee. Thanks, Ryan.) threw a no-hitter while on acid, which is sorta like writing poetry. Also: "The Crowd at the Ball Game" from Williams' Spring and All.

Originally Published: October 28th, 2008

Travis Nichols is the author of two books of poetry: Iowa (2010, Letter Machine Editions) and See Me Improving (2010); and he is the author of two novels: Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder (2012) and The More You Ignore Me (2013). He has contributed to The Believer, Paste, The...

  1. October 29, 2008
     Joshua Marie Wilkinson

    I like this post, Travis. Paul Fattaruso has a great poem featuring six or seven baseball players with wonderful-sounding names. Maybe Paul will post it for us? He lives in Philly now, but I think Perez's love for Ashbery and Creeley has introduced a conflict as to who to root for.
    go cubs?

  2. October 29, 2008
     Lavinia Greenlaw

    An out poetry-reading baseball player? In this country, a football player has to be careful even about what newspaper he reads. Graham Le Saux, who played for Chelsea in the 80s and 90s, and was at one point English football's most expensive defender, turned up for his first day at the club in a state of wondrous innocence: "The only people I knew in London were students*, so I turned up at training with my student look: jeans rolled up, Pringle socks and my rucksack with The Guardian in it." He also liked antiques and went to art galleries but it was The Guardian that led to his being virulently mocked and ostracised. (See"David Beckham called me a poof.") Le Saux published his autobiography last year. It seems likely that he has read the odd poem, more likely that he's written one.
    *If someone here calls you a "student", they are probably trying to insult you, especially if the word is elaborated into "student-type".

  3. October 30, 2008
     Joe Safdie

    I found occasion to comment on this year’s World Series (and a few other things, including the upcoming election, Ron’s blog, and flarf) here, here, and here.

    I kinda wish the Rays had come back – as will be apparent on a first read – but I’m glad for Pedro Feliz, who played so long for “my” team, the San Francisco Giants. So . . . which poems of Ashbery and Creeley do you think Perez read?

  4. October 30, 2008

    Bill Lee didn't throw the no-hitter on acid, Doc Ellis did. Allegedly.

  5. November 2, 2008

    Perez reminds me of Eric Cantona, the French footballer who famously played for Manchester United in the 1990's. He was a sportsman not afraid to expose his literary interests and he went on to develop a fairly successful career as an actor. In one famous interview he described the way the british press followed his every movement thus, "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea". Rather less impressively he is now the manager of the French Beach Football Team.
    Football poem - http://dunstancarter.wordpress.com/index.php?s=rush+goalies

  6. November 3, 2008

    Miguel Batista has written a book of poems.
    That was some good baseball in this past World Series!

  7. November 3, 2008

    Donald Hall wrote a book with Dock Elllis: In the Country of Baseball. Dock Ellis is dying of liver problems. :(
    2 good baseball lit mags: Elysian Fields Quarterly and Spitball