Tag Archives: chris fischbach

Marianne Moore, the baseball fan

I just learned from Chris Fischbach, publisher of the great Coffee House Press, that Marianne Moore once threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium.  I always thought she was a Dodger fan!  My hope is that she threw the pitch and then said “I, too, dislike them.”

I forgot that there was actually baseball in this poem!  See:

the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
                   do not admire what
                   we cannot understand: the bat
                             holding on upside down or in quest of something to
eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf under
        a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that feels a flea
                                                                                         the base-
       ball fan, the statistician—

 

(line breaks kind of destroyed by WordPress, sorry)

I’m actually not sure how to read this — I think the catalog here is not delineating who “we” are, but rather what we cannot understand and thus do not admire.  What makes a baseball fan hard to understand?  Maybe this makes more sense in 1924, when the first version of the poem is written, and we’re not so far from the point where the term “fanatic” for a baseball rooter acquired its permanent abbreviation.  But why is it hard to understand the bat looking for something to eat?  The other animals in the poem are, indeed, engaging in some weird repetitive unparseable motion, but the endless quest for food seems like something we fail to admire precisely because we do understand it.

The appearance of the “bat” before baseball is presumably on purpose but I don’t really understand the work it does.

Also, the famous phrase from this poem, “Imaginary gardens with real toads in them,” is not so far off as a description of mathematics.

Anyway, per BaseballLibrary, Moore was a Dodger fan for most of her life but felt so betrayed by the team’s move to Los Angeles that she switched to the Yankees.  Understandable but unforgivable.  She’s the baseball equivalent of those people who repent for their youthful liberal overreach by becoming right-wing culture warriors.

 

 

Tagged , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: