Click Image to Visit the Pecan Grove Press Web Page for Poetry from Paradise Valley


Poetry From Paradise Valley

Pecan Grove Press has released an anthology of poems, a sampling of works published in Valparaiso Poetry Review during its first decade, from the original 1999-2000 volume to the 2009-2010 volume.

Poetry from Paradise Valley includes a stellar roster of 50 poets. Among the contributors are a former Poet Laureate of the United States, a winner of the Griffin International Prize, two Pulitzer Prize winners, two National Book Award winners, two National Book Critics Circle winners, six finalists for the National Book Award, four finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award, two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, and a few dozen recipients of other honors, such as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, etc.

Readers are encouraged to visit the Poetry from Paradise Valley page at the publisher's web site, where ordering information about the book can be found.

Best Books of Indiana 2011: Finalist. Judges' Citation: "Poetry from Paradise Valley is an excellent anthology that features world-class poetry, including the work of many artists from the Midwest, such as Jared Carter, Annie Finch, David Baker, and Allison Joseph. It’s an eclectic and always interesting collection where poems on similar themes flow into each other. It showcases the highest caliber of U. S. poetry."
—Indiana Center for the Book, Indiana State Library

Friday, October 26, 2007

David Bottoms: "Sign for My Father, Who Stressed the Bunt"

As many Americans find themselves once again watching the World Series this week, I know I’m not the only one reminded of the frequency with which baseball has been subject or setting in poetry throughout the decades. Indeed, the Poetry Foundation is currently running an article about this topic by Levi Stahl, “Baseball and Verse, from Tinker to Evers to Big Papi,” at its web site. Baseball seems the most popular sport for writers of all literary forms in the last century, and many fine examples of works about the national pastime easily come to mind.

Nevertheless, as I listened a few nights ago to a sportscaster lament the lost art of bunting, particularly in this era of the American League’s designated hitter (a development hated by many traditionalists, especially when imposed upon visiting National League teams during the fall classic), I recalled one specific gem of a poem about playing on the baseball diamond.

I have long admired the David Bottoms poem, “Sign for My Father, Who Stressed the Bunt,” first published in his 1982 collection, In a U-Haul North of Damascus. This brief poem presents a message from a son to his father about how he has at last learned the importance of sacrifice, the necessity sometimes to forego the glamour and individual glory of swinging for the fences in order to move along a teammate with a potential winning run. The emphasis on “the strict technique” in execution and on discipline, the “whole tiresome pitch / about basics never changing,” once lost on an immature boy, now appears crucial to the grown man after “years passed, three leagues of organized ball, / no few lives”:


On the rough diamond,
the hand-cut field beneath the dog lot and the barn,
we rehearsed the strict technique
of bunting. I watched from the infield,
the mound, the backstop
as your left hand climbed the bat, your legs
and shoulders squared toward the pitcher.
You could drop it like a seed
down either base line. I admired your style,
but not enough to take my eyes off the bank
that served as our center-field fence.

Years passed, three leagues of organized ball,
no few lives. I could homer
into the garden beyond the bank,
into the left-field lot of Carmichael Motors,
and still you stressed the same technique,
the crouch and spring, the lead arm absorbing
just enough impact. That whole tiresome pitch
about basics never changing,
and I never learned what you were laying down.

Like the hand brushed across the bill of a cap,
let this be the sign
I’m getting a grip on the sacrifice.

“Sign for My Father, Who Stressed the Bunt” wonderfully exists as a recognition of the careful coaching and traditional advice for life offered from one generation to another by the father, belatedly appreciated by a more mature son who now may find himself at a corresponding age and in a similar situation, perhaps himself a father as he speaks in the poem. The narrator acknowledges always maintaining respect for his father (“I admired your style”), but only recently gaining an understanding of the father’s example as one who relinquishes his opportunity to obtain acclaim or personal gain so that another, perhaps his child, might succeed. Bottoms closes the poem with a sign as symbolic as any “hand brushed across the bill of a cap”—the poem itself a signal of tribute to the father in an elegiac fashion—“let this be the sign / I’m getting a grip on the sacrifice.”

David Bottoms reprinted “Sign for My Father, Who Stressed the Bunt” in a collection of selected poems, Armored Hearts (1995), reviewed with his 1999 book, Vagrant Grace, in Volume I, Number 2 (Spring/Summer 2000 issue) of Valparaiso Poetry Review. A review of his more recent volume, Waltzing Through the Endtime (2004), appeared earlier this year in the February 14 post for “One Poet’s Notes.” Readers can view a video of David Bottoms reading “Sign for My Father, Who Stressed the Bunt” at the New Georgia Encyclopedia web site.

[By the way, I am especially pleased to present this poem as a personal sign of appreciation today since it is both my birthday and the birthday of my father, who once coached me in baseball and who would praise any player’s ability to bunt the base-runner over by gently gripping above the handle as if in the act of catching the ball with the barrel of the bat, but who, more importantly, through words and deeds also taught me the value of sacrifice.]


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. You helped me to better understand this poem :) And in a way I think that now, perhaps I too better understand my father.

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