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« Three Poems (by Mitch Sisskind) | Main | Reginald Dwayne Betts: Pick of the Week [ed. Terence Winch] »

October 22, 2021

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Such a terrific poem from a terrific book!!

Cummins at the bat: out of the park!

I second Denise's comment. The whole book is terrific.

Jim Cummin's talent, intelligence and way of understanding the world has always wowed me. He "sees" and makes the reader see what he knows, his earned wisdom. He is a poet who deserves many readers and attention. Get his book Recalcitrant Actors. It's brilliant.

What the hell, mindful of my grandson's in the park homerun last summer, his team behind by 14, his teammates streaming from their dugout and leaping to hug each other and him for this shared modicum of restored honor, grandson breaking free to scornfully toss his batting helmet against a galvanized meshed wire playground fence and mutter something like, "So there!" Thanks, Jim Cummins!

Holy cow! Thank you, everyone. I'm overwhelmed.

James Cummins’s “The Stick” is one of the best poems ever written about baseball and, for that matter, any sport. The seemingly disarming opener, “It was intra-squad, not a real game,” proves to be anything but. The reader already suspects something momentous is about to occur, something probing, transforming, and lasting. The powerful impact of “The Stick” put me in mind of John Updike’s “Ex-Basketball Player,” a poem about a former high-school hoops hero who “never learned a trade, he just sells gas, / Checks oil, and changes flats. Once in a while, / As a gag, he dribbles an inner tube.” Cummins’s poem also reminded me of the exceptional writing in Updike’s “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” his article on Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams’s last game at Fenway Park that appeared in the October 22, 1960, New Yorker. Even more impressively, “The Stick” conjured for me Richard Ben Cramer’s stunning article “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?” in the June 1986 Esquire, with its famous lede still being scrutinized in sports journalism curricula. In his poem James Cummins meticulously limns a schoolboy sports duel, built on bettering a bully, and the game-within-the-game psychology: “And he knew I knew: that was the key.” Astonishingly well done, it is a rite-of-passage poem using baseball as male-coded testing. David Lehman deserves all props possible for bringing “The Stick” to our attention or re-attention.

Now I'm speechless, a rare occurrence. Thank you, Dr. Hitchner.

Thank you, Earle, for the compliment and the excellent appreciative comment. I wondr whether you can let us know what Richard Ben Cramer's "famous lede" was in that 1986 article. I read his bioo of Joe DiMaggio and liked it a lot.

Great poem.

Thanks, T.W.

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly

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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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