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Carpe Diem

Years ago, in his essay "Football Red and Baseball Green," Murray Ross contrasted the battlefield dynamics of the former with the latter's ostensibly more pastoral qualities. By virtue of its subtle but intense mannerisms, its lack of time limit and essentially cyclic action—a "summer game" that in fact encompasses spring's renewal and autumn's decline—baseball has long been regarded as the "poet's game." (The Oxford English Dictionary credits Whitman with the earliest printed instance of the term "baseball") Donald Hall, one of America's foremost men of letters, has long concurred with this view. Though he has written about other sports, it has been baseball—"this daily game," as he puts it—that has remained a preoccupation through four decades of essays, memoirs, children's books, criticism, and poems. Always, there have been poems.

As The Museum of Clear Ideas amply shows, baseball is still the poet's game. The book's title section falls between two shorter sequences of poems—"Baseball" and "Extra Innings"—as if between the foul lines in Fenway Park. The nine innings of "Baseball" set out to explain our national pastime to a late German collage artist. Perhaps collage and poem resemble baseball itself, "assemblages of ordinary things" that ultimately constitute...

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