Around Bushwick: AIB’s coverage of community events, supporting its mission to promote creative expression in one of Brooklyn’s most dynamic neighborhoods.
Poetry and baseball. If you don’t see the connection then you probably weren’t at Storefront last night for the latest of the Bushwick gallery’s monthly readings.
The evening was dedicated to that most gentle of verse-forms: the seventeen-syllable haiku. Dara Mandle, a published poet and critic, opened up with some goodies of her own before turning the floor over to Cor van den Heuvel, a poet, editor and haiku super-fan, who ran with the Beat Generation of the mid-1950s.
Cor explained some of the less obvious commonalities between the Japanese poetry form and the American game. Perhaps the strongest trait shared is the influence of the natural world. References to snow-covered mountains, wet pine needles or other nods to nature are often found in traditional haiku. Baseball is similarly rooted in nature: its fields are made of grass and dirt, it’s played under open skies in almost all seasons of the year, and, most painfully, its nine innings have no fixed end-time.
So it’s little wonder that baseball has inspired scores of haiku from both Japanese and American writers, including Jack Kerouac. He brought his own nonconformist style to the form and advised fellow poets not to get too hung up on counting syllables, but to go for the essence. His haiku appear in Cor’s book, Baseball Haiku: The Best Haiku Ever Written About the Game, and include this little nugget:
Empty baseball field
hops along the bench.
Now just sit back and have a think on that one, little sparrow.