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    -INTERVIEW: What baseball is, according to this lifetime fan (Mary Jo Brooks, Nov 1, 2016, PBS)
Gail Mazur says she’s been obsessed with baseball her whole life. “I grew up in Boston. My dad knew Ted Williams. Being a Red Sox fan is a lifetime mania and an important part of my lore.”

In spite of that mania, Mazur says she resisted the temptation to write any poems about baseball because she worried about the seeming cliche that the game is a metaphor for life.

“I knew I couldn’t write about baseball as tragedy because of course it’s not real tragedy. But when your team loses, it feels like tragedy.”

When she finally did write “Baseball,” Mazur said the poem came to her almost fully formed and it became the final poem of her first collection. Instead of worrying about the cliche, she poked fun at it.

“Everything just came together for me. The humor of it. The kinds of characters you meet at baseball games and in life. It was kind of a breakthrough poem for me.”

Gail Mazur is a well-regarded, oft-published and anthologized New England poet. But, perhaps inevitably, this poem became probably her best-known, kind of fulfilling her fears. (You can see/hear her read it here.) Though her other work (see below) is just as worthwhile. I’d particularly recommend Ice.

As for Baseball itself, it strikes one that the poem does, ironically, affirm the cliches she had resisted. The characters and circumstances not only ring true within the setting of the game, but in life. For my money, there lies its greatness, as the closely observed particular expands to encompass the universal:
Baseball by Gail Mazur
for John Limon

The game of baseball is not a metaphor
and I know it’s not really life.
The chalky green diamond, the lovely
dusty brown lanes I see from airplanes
multiplying around the cities
are only neat playing fields.
Their structure is not the frame
of history carved out of forest,
that is not what I see on my ascent.

And down in the stadium,
the veteran catcher guiding the young
pitcher through the innings, the line
of concentration between them,
that delicate filament is not
like the way you are helping me,
only it reminds me when I strain
for analogies, the way a rookie strains
for perfection, and the veteran,
in his wisdom, seems to promise it,
it glows from his upheld glove,

and the man in front of me
in the grandstand, drinking banana
daiquiris from a thermos,
continuing through a whole dinner
to the aromatic cigar even as our team
is shut out, nearly hitless, he is
not like the farmer that Auden speaks
of in Breughel’s Icarus,
or the four inevitable woman-hating
drunkards, yelling, hugging
each other and moving up and down
continuously for more beer

and the young wife trying to understand
what a full count could be
to please her husband happy in
his old dreams, or the little boy
in the Yankees cap already nodding
off to sleep against his father,
program and popcorn memories
sliding into the future,
and the old woman from Lincoln, Maine,
screaming at the Yankee slugger
with wounded knees to break his leg

this is not a microcosm,
not even a slice of life

and the terrible slumps,
when the greatest hitter mysteriously
goes hitless for weeks, or
the pitcher’s stuff is all junk
who threw like a magician all last month,
or the days when our guys look
like Sennett cops, slipping, bumping
each other, then suddenly, the play
that wasn’t humanly possible, the Kid
we know isn’t ready for the big leagues,
leaps into the air to catch a ball
that should have gone downtown,
and coming off the field is hugged
and bottom-slapped by the sudden
sorcerers, the winning team

the question of what makes a man
slump when his form, his eye,
his power aren’t to blame, this isn’t
like the bad luck that hounds us,
and his frustration in the games
not like our deep rage
for disappointing ourselves

the ball park is an artifact,
manicured, safe, “scene in an Easter egg”,
and the order of the ball game,
the firm structure with the mystery
of accidents always contained,
not the wild field we wander in,
where I’m trying to recite the rules,
to repeat the statistics of the game,

and the wind keeps carrying my words away

Baseball from Zeppo's First Wife: New & Selected Poems (Gail Mazur, 1978)


Grade: (A+)


Gail Mazur Links:

-ENTRY: Mazur, Gail 1937– (
    -FELLOWSHIP PAGE: Gail Mazur 2008–2009 (The Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Fellow, Emerson College)
    -FACULTY PAGE: Gail Mazur (BU Creative Writing)
    -INDEX: Gail Mazur (Poetry Out Loud)
    -INDEX: Gail Mazur (
    -INDEX: Gail Mazur (Best Poems)
    -INDEX: Gail Mazur (Ploughshares)
    -INDEX: Gail Mazur (Poetry Foundation)
    -INDEX: Gail Mazur (Poem Hunter)
    -INDEX: Gail Mazur (
    -INDEX: Gail Mazur (Harvard Review)
    -INDEX: Gail Mazur (Hudson Review)
    -ESSAY: Remembering Jim: a tribute to James Tate (Gail Mazur, Plume Poetry)
    -ESSAY: My Friend, David Ferry (Gail Mazur, ISSUE 13.3, Literary Matters)
    -EXCERPT: A Lifetime in Verse: An excerpt from Land’s End: New and Selected Poems by Gail Mazur (Jayne Ross | July 29, 2020, American Scholar)
    -VIDEO: Poetry Reading (Gail Mazur, College of General Studies, December 2, 2010, Boston University)
    -VIDEO: 2021 (Fall) Robert Lowell Memorial Poetry Reading (Read By: Gail Mazur, Aaron Caycedo-Kimura)
    -PODCAST: Ice by Gail Mazur (The Daily Poem)
    -PODCAST: Baseball by Gail Mazur (The Daily Poem)
    -POEM: Young Apple Tree, December (Gail Mazur, Fine Arts Work Center)
    -POEMS: Two Poems (Gail Mazur, Paris Review)
    -POEM: At the Ear, Nose, and Throat Clinic (Gail Mazur)
    -POEM: The Bay (Gail Mazur)
    -POEM: Dear Migraine, (Gail Mazur)
    -POEM: Ice (Gail Mazur)
    -POEM: The Flea (Gail Mazur)
    -POEM: The Age (Gail Mazur)
    -POEM: Matzoh (Gail Mazur)
    -POEM: Things (Gail Mazur)
    -INTERVIEW: What baseball is, according to this lifetime fan (Mary Jo Brooks, Nov 1, 2016, PBS)
    -PROFILE: “Becoming a Poet”: AN INTERVIEW WITH GAIL MAZUR (Lloyd Schwartz, Provincetown Arts) [PDF]
    -INTERVIEW: “Structure with the Mystery”: A Conversation with Gail Mazur (interviewed by Tyler Mills, 3/15/22, On The Seawall)
    -INTERVIEW: Twelve Questions:: An Interview with Gail Mazur (Joyce Wilson, August 2012, The Poetry Porch)
    -INTERVIEW: A chat with poet Gail Mazur- winner of the Golden Rose Award (Interview by Doug Holder, JUNE 11, 2024, BOSTON AREA SMALL PRESS AND POETRY SCENE)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview: Gail Mazur & Lloyd Schwartz (Bob Sykora and Brooke Schifano, Jun 12, 2017, Breakwater Review)
    -INTERVIEW: A Conversation with Gail Mazur (Sarah Ehrich, Spring 2013, Ploughshares: Volume 39, Number 1)
    -INTERVIEW: The Murderous Edge: Three Questions with Gail Mazur (Agni, 6/25/18)
    -INTERVIEW: Q & A American Poetry: Gail Mazur (Poetry Society of America)
    -PROFILE: Gail Mazur’s Ode to Provincetown: A new collection of poems balances loss with renewal (SUSAN RAND BROWN, SEP 3, 2020, Provincetown Independent)
-VIDEO DISCUSSION: Write America: episode 90: Carl Phillips, Gail Mazur and Adam Gopnik (Write America, 1/25/23)
    -VIDEO DISCUSSION: Let's Talk About A Poem : Baseball (Gail Mazur, Sept 18, 2021, Somerville Public Library)
    -INTERVIEW: You Bet Your Life: Poet Gail Mazur on Robert Lowell, "the textural richness of the ordinary," and the value of artistic community (Tess Taylor, MARCH 2006, The Atlantic)
    -VIDEO DISCUSSION: Archive of our September 17 'By the Book' Zoom poetry event featuring Gail Mazur, author of LAND'S END, and Rachel DeWoskin, author of TWO MENUS (University of Chicago Press)
    -VIDEO DISCUSSION: A Poetry Reading and Conversation with Gail Mazur (Concord Museum, 4/05/21)
    -VIDEO DISCUSSION: Lloyd Schwartz discusses "Who's on First?" with Gail Mazur (Harvard Book Store)
    -AUDIO: Gail Mazur's "Baseball" (Close Reads Podcast Network, Oct 5, 2018, The Daily Poem)
    -VIDEO: Poet Gail Mazur reads "Baseball" (MassPoetry2012)
-ESSAY: The Last Poem I Loved: “Figures in a Landscape” by Gail Mazur (ALEXIS ORGERA, AUGUST 2, 2011, The Rumpus)
I know first hand. Mazur is one of my great mentors. Sitting with me for hours in her living room, we’d tinker with my grad school poems. I’d leave in awe of the possibilities of a single word, always feeling a little too lazy in her company.

    -ESSAY: Reading Guide: Gail Mazur: Gail Mazur’s pop culture catalogue of 1940s. (SAMANTHA MYERS, Poetry Foundation)
    -ARCHIVES: Gail Mazur (Internet Archives)
    -ARCHIVES: mazur (Ploughshares)
    -REVIEW: of Zeppo's First Wife by Gail Mazur (Tess Taylor, The Atlantic)
    -REVIEW: of Zeppo’s First Wife (Robert Pinsky, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Zeppo’s First Wife (David Gewanter, Tikkun)
    -REVIEW: of Forbidden City by Gail Mazur (john Lau, Hyperallergic)
    -REVIEW: of Forbidden City (Chard deNiord, Harvard Review)
    -REVIEW: of THEY CAN'T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME by Gail Mazur (Sandy McKinney, Foreword)
    -REVIEW: of Figures in a Landscape, poems by Gail Mazur (Ron Slate, On the Seawall)
    -REVIEW: of Land’s End by Gail Mazur (Jim Kates, artFuse)
    -REVIEW: of Land’s End (Evilcyclist's Bookshelf)
    -REVIEW: of Land’s End (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Labor Pains : Michelangelo's poem about the awkward parturition of the Sistine Chapel. (Robert Pinsky, Slate)

Book-related and General Links: