Sean Kilpatrick (red_dirt) wrote in tonystanza,
Sean Kilpatrick

problematic ty cobb poem

II. Heavy Artillery

Baseball is not for pink mollycoddlers
who don’t bleed. It is a war
for men chased by sniveling
bastards. Haven’t you seen
the diamond sink when I play?
I am stomping us down to some
quick hell – it is the only way
to bury your enemies. Make them be
a guide through heat so tight
even my shadow is trained to steal
bases. My shadow should have
been a doctor, so I could
never look up to it. I
talk in paragraphs of war
and if you want a poultice,
don’t increase my tension.
Don’t suck on my fever.
Don’t infest my politics with clap.
Don’t chuck things at my weapon.
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I owe three critques.

Today this poem inspired my second (after some years) name-calling insult rejection letter. That would usually make me proud, but I fucking hate baseball and, consequently, this poem. Please help. Thank you.
I hate baseball metaphors, but this is the best I've seen so far! Plus coupled with your hate for baseball, I adore!

Look at your line breaks a little more carefully...for instance this bugs me:

never look up to it. I

I think it would be stronger to bring "I" down to the next stanza.

The ending builds up much like a "war" but I feel you may be cutting yourself short...I think you could build more and the obliterate us with a nuke or something like that...

hope this makes sense!

I think it would be stronger to bring "I" down to the next stanza.


bring "I" down to the next LINE! sheesh...i've had to much coffee today.
Well, this poem certainly doesn't merit name-calling. Who was this editor? Should I put the magazine on my shit list? Should tonystanza have a shit list? That might be fun. But negative.

I'm guessing from the roman numeral and the lack of character development here that this is part of a series. I love the first line-point-five. "pink mollycoddlers" is great, and perfect to be coming out of Cobb's mouth.

The comparison of any sport to war, especially when stated bluntly as you do here, risks rubbing asses with cliche. The imagery throughout the poem pretty much redeems this for me, but I might not have Cobb say "It is a war" outright.

"men chased by sniveling bastards" is either not specific enough for me or its referent confuses me: does this refer to the other players; the players in the field? If so, then you've already suggested that by making it into the league, for the most part they're not "pink mollycoddlers" and therefore also not "sniveling bastards." The only other people I can imagine chasing Cobb around are the media, but since they're otherwise absent from the poem, this would seem awkward.

I like "Haven't you seen / the diamond sink when I play?" It's a very simple and visually satisfying illustration of Cobb's self-importance. I also like "I am stomping us down to some / quick hell," but logistically it doesn't make sense. When he's on the base, he sinks, and everyone else doesn't. Maybe "I am stomping down to some / quick hell—it is the only way / to escape my enemies" would work better.

The next sentence is also conflicting. Even if he's the one stomping down to hell, bringing the rest with him, he would be leading or "guiding," not the others, right? If anything, they'd funnel down after him. Also, the act of stealing basis is solitary, so the "guide" seems inappropriate. But I love "even my shadow is trained to steal / bases." More of that self-importance.

Overall this idea of Cobb going down to Hell with his baseball bat is extremely appealing to me, however, and worth saving. In addition to being pretty badass, it adds an element of classical (but unpretentious) reference to the poem that could help it get past assholes who sniff at the very premise of poetry about baseball.

I would consider rewriting the second half of the poem, however. Maybe keep going with the trip to hell, instead. Bringing this doctor in is confusing to the narrative, and "so I could / never look up to it" is vague. You've already shown that Cobb thinks he's King Shit, so to illustrate that with a doctor who is otherwise unimportant to the poem is unnecessary. I'm guessing this doctor is part of Cobb's biography, but as a reader who has only a simple impression of Cobb, it's confusing.

"I talk in paragraphs of war" is you talking. Cobb wouldn't put it like that, it's not concrete enough. Same goes for "don't increase my tension." "Don't suck on my fever" sounds like Cobb, but I can't imagine him saying "infest my politics," and politics are absent from the poem except in that line.

I read this poem through twice before any of it bothered me. Maybe it's because I had just woken up, or maybe it's because you've created a strong enough voice here that I'm willing to overlook a shortcoming or two.
Hah! I totally missed the Ty Cobb reference. Doh!
I only got it because of the subject line. I'm assuming this is part of a longer poem in which the reference to Cobb would be clearer.
That was one of the most helpful, professional critques I've ever had. I really like the idea of writing more about going into hell. I'm excited to rework this now, thank you.

I think that mag was titled slanderslimeshitsuck poem magazine about baseball or something. I'd prefer to stop submitting for awhile and send all my work here from now on, heh.
I'd like to give some useful critique, but I admit I am finding this rather opaque. It is reading to me as a poem about George Bush and Iraq or more accurately American militarism and hegemonic arrogance generally, but it isn't at the moment offering me anything particularly novel.

My shadow should have / been a doctor, so I could / never look up to it seems particularly out of place rhythmically and soncially as well as in terms of content sense, though I see you want to open the medical theme for what follows. It's the never look up to it that seems particularly jolting.

There is a pervasive bdsm homoeroticism throughout which reinforces the military overtones -- baseball = war = rough sex seems an Ur-American equation. The anger is effectively communicated. But I guess at the end of the poem I'm left with "yes, and...?"

Sorry I couldn't be of more help. I will say there were some very nice sonics, though, and it for the most part (exception noted above) flowed well rhythmically/sonically.
I want to give this a good critique, but like Pachamama, this is just too opaque for me to be helpful. I don't understand what you're trying to say, or what I'm supposed to take from it. And I actually do love baseball...

I like the idea of a poem written in Cobb's voice, and I like the image of him going down to hell with a baseball bat. And speaking of voice, I like the voice. But I can't help but wonder -- if you hate baseball, why write about baseball? And there's just a feeling of lines thrown in for the sake of opacity. Take these for example:

talk in paragraphs of war
and if you want a poultice,
don’t increase my tension.

Parse that out: "I talk in distinct portions about violent conflicts, and if you want a warm balm/relief, don't increase my strain." If he's speaking in "paragraphs" of war, I can only assume he's not writing an essay, so it must mean a chunking of his dialogue...but then what else is he talking about in the other 'paragraphs'? And then what is the poulice a balm against? The war? Cobb's rhetoric?

In some respects it's a silly exercise to break down lines into their denotations, but that's what a reader ends up doing with lines that unclear.

Another example just above it: "My shadow should have / been a doctor, so I could never / look up to it." Is the speaker not looking up to his shadow because he doesn't look up to doctors, or because the shadow didn't fulfill the destiny of being a doctor? Syntactic ambiguities like that are just too much to wade through.

Anyway, you've already gotten some good constructive criticism from Sean, and I'm looking forward to the next draft. I just hope it's a little clearer.