The deep relationship between baseball and language has been remarked many times, but rarely if ever has it been enacted in the writing itself. Kevin Varrone’s Box Score is that enactment. Moment by moment, innings (as it were) of prose poems throw the ultimate linguistic eephus. Play by play wordplay struck by bits of ash verbal industry. No open-field poem can find the strike zone. It must go awry and in doing so presents a perfect game—rare but imaginable, and worth staying ‘til the end.
I was honored recently to be asked by Kevin Varrone to read and record a section of his emergent long series poem on baseball, Box Score. Above is the section he asked me to perform, and here is the recording I made for him. I can’t wait to see (and listen to) this book.
George Bowering and I have exchanged emails every so often about our mutual interest in baseball, and — although this hasn’t been the explicit topic of our casual backs and forth — about why baseball has been such an attraction to poets writing in the experimental tradition. It might just be that because there are so many fans of baseball, and because there are many experimental poets, the demographic probabilities are in favor of producing the Bowerings. But I think it’s more than that. I’m pleased to recommend Bowering’s Baseball: A Poem in the Magic Number 9 (inexpensive paperback available here), but that’s not why I’m writing today. Today I want to introduce you to a book-length poem Kevin Varrone has been writing. It is not published yet but, as I understand it, is complete in manuscript. The title of the book is “Box Score : An Autobiography” and has, in addition to the fairly standard quip about our childhoods from the late Bart Giamatti, a lovely and relevant epigraph from Andrew Zawaki:
: weighted and found wanting : this unaccustomed light
Varrone’s book is a series of prose poems and here are several: