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August 09, 2020


During this confinement, the virus raging outside and baseball a dream in books, it is lovely to connect the game to its roots, to kids playing in a back lot, to kids banished to right field where the ball would only come once upon a time. In these brief poems Ethelbert sketches class distinctions, economic differences, brute hierarchies based on height and arrogance, and he confirms that he is to baseball what Neville Cardus is to cricket, to every sport its writer. Thank you Ethelbert and thank you Terence, both poets of the playing fields of the Bronx.

Thank you, my friend, for this insightful comment.

The excellence of these two baseball poems by E. Ethelbert Miller is not a surprise to me. I have a well-thumbed paperback of his FIRST LIGHT: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS, published in 1994, and in it are such equally compelling, rounding-third-base-for-home poems as "The Kid," "The Trade," "Playoffs," "Twilight," "Helen," and "Bill Mazeroski Returns Home from the World Series." Of course, baseball is but one captivating layer of those six poems and the two posted above, all digging deeper into our collective psyches and pasts. E. Ethelbert Miller is a master poet of deceptively easeful excavation, leaving us exposed to long ago pleasures and pains he so nimbly coaxes into our view once again. He and I share another distinct pleasure and honor: knowing the esteemed J. Saunders Redding (1906-1988). Redding was a co-editor of THE NEW CAVALCADE: AFRICAN AMERICAN WRITERS FROM 1760 TO THE PRESENT, a revised and updated anthology published in 1992. In it are four poems by E. Ethelbert Miller. My connection to Redding came in spring 1976 at the University of Pennsylvania, where I took a graduate course in "American Biographical Writing" taught by him as a visiting professor from Cornell. Both he and his course were among the scholarly highlights of my two years as a grad student at Penn. Thanks to Terence Winch for bringing such exceptional poets as E. Ethelbert Miller to the attention of BAP readers, of whom I'm happily one.

"Ghosts of the game." Well-played, Ethelbert. -- DL

Thanks, Earle, for another penetrating response. Ethelbert has long been a force in DC's literary universe.

Love the Spaldeen--what a word to hear again!--"the ghosts of the game" as David said, standing alone in sunlight and on the third out not just leaving but escaping through the fence! Terrific!

So nice to hear the word Spaldeen again, and as David said how terrific this note of "the ghosts of game" who stand there "alone in the sunlight" and not just leaving the game but escaping through the fence at the end of the inning!

I love the pigeons flying, the manhole covers for bases, dodging curbs and cars, ghosts of the game. You wear your baseball cap backwards, don't you?

Thank you, Ethelbert.

Baseball is like religion. Many attend, but few understand. Ethelbert comprehends both.

IF GOD INVENTED BASEBALL is a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 15th.

Excellent choices, Dr. Winch.

Thank you, Patrick. Ethelbert's book is indeed a winner.

What a thrill to hear the word Spaldeen again, and see what David's already pointed to, these "ghosts of the game" standing singly out the in the sun and at the close of an inning fleeing but through a hole in the fence--terrific!

DB---I don't know if this is true, but I've always believed that "spaldeen" is an Irishization
of "Spalding," the company that made the balls. That "-een" sound usually denotes a diminutive in Irish (cf. smithereens, shebeen, et al.).

I'm sure I would never have recognized the word "Spaldeen" if I hadn't hung around Terence Winch for so long.
I have a feeling thAt there is something in both these poems that recollects some of the basic moves of a game -- the echo of "broomstick' in "stickball," movement from "left-handed" to "right field" -- but unfortunately, I know more about words than about baseball. I get the idea of being sent down to the minors, though -- I think everybody gets that one.
By the way, that's one of the most Ethelbert pictures of Ethelbert ever.

PS I think what I know about baseball is summed up in a passing reference to "batting 1000" in the musical Gypsy.

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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