Selected excerpts reveal new U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera is actually a baseball writer
A new American poet laureate was named on Wednesday. And while there wasn't a billowing of white smoke or even an American Idol-style caller vote, the selection of Juan Felipe Herrera is still a very big deal. After all, it is now up to Herrera to pass judgment on whether something is poetry or not poetry. (Wait, that's not his job? Huh.)
However, as with all U.S. poet laureates, it is important for baseball to be a major theme of their work -- after all, is baseball not the National game?
Donald Hall, the belt-holder in 2006-07 (wait, they don't get WWE-style poetry belts, either?!) famously has a poem titled "The Seventh Inning."
Stanley Kunitz, who held the title in 2000, once wrote in "The Testing Tree:"
But what about this year's selection? While at first glance, Herrera doesn't appear to write about the sport, that's where you're wrong. It's actual a central theme in many of his poems -- you just have to delve in a little deeper.
In "Punk Half Panther," Herrera opens with:
Is "night bats" not a reference to listening to baseball on the radio while in your car? And is a "prostar going blam" not a reference to a David Ortiz home run?
If that doesn't convince you, Herrera wrote in a later stanza:
This is clearly a reference to Buster Posey, whose home stadium AT&T Park "juts" out to the sea/McCovey Cove.
In "Here or There," Herrera makes a quite obvious connection between how all the action of a baseball game can be reduced to mere "numbers letters figures/without faces or names only jagged lines" in a scoresheet or box score:
And in the final lines of his poem, "Dolphinating," Herrera writes this:
"Jellyfish world wheel?" "Electric emerald rain Vajra (a sanskrit word meaning thunderbolt and diamond)?" Is there any way this isn't a poem about the Marlins' home run sculpture?