Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New (York) Mets uniforms?

The Mets have announced, or sort of announced, that they might be making a uniform change after this most dismal of seasons. Reportedly, the possible changes involve dropping the traditional pinstripes, and going with a cream-colored uniform like the one they wore this past August. Here’s David Wright in that uniform, being escorted out to to his position at third by the Mets trainers, as is his usual fashion. The bat-boy then comes over, bows, and gives him his hat, bows to the four corners of Citi Field, and sprints back to the dugout. David picks up a pinch of Citi infield dirt, ceremonially smears it on the front of his uniform, and rolls up his sleeves so that you can see the sleeves of his orange undershirt. The crowd over at the third-base side, known as “David’s Army,” roll up their own sleeves in an exaggerated manner, in tribute to their hero, and high-five each other. Some are simply wearing orange Mets t-shirts with the number 5 on them. Wright, number 5, is the famous Mets singles hitter.

So anyway, yeah, this or something like this might be the new Mets uniform. Some people say who cares. And anyway isn’t this a poetry blog, mainly? (Well actually this is a very poetic post, to be honest....) Others are alarmed at the fact that it seems the pinstripes are going to be ditched. I agree; keep the pinstripes. Bizarrely, a couple of people have actually suggested a blue alternate jersey, like the Mets should rock this blue solid look, like the Cubs do sometimes (the Mets should imitate a team that hasn’t won the World Series for over 100 years)(don’t get me wrong, I would actually like to see the Cubs win; that would be a great moment to see, but hopefully not in a blue jersey). Thankfully, at least it’s pretty clear now that no one likes the black jersey or the all-black hat. That’s capitalistic bullshit. They see through that now, finally.

So really, why have an alternate jersey at all? A black this, a blue that, an alternate this or that? No. There should be one home jersey and one away jersey. For the home jersey, the (maybe off-)white pinstriped 1969 classic Mets jersey, no drop-down black shadowing, no stripes on the sides, no trim. Just a classic button-down jersey, white with pinstripes. The one Tom Seaver is wearing in 1970 on Camera Day at Shea Stadium, holding this weird toy. (As photographed by Stephen Hanks, Camera Day at Shea Stadium, 1970, found online....) Tom Terrific knew where it was at. Riding the subway out to Shea in the 70s meant seeing all the newest graffiti, what early tags were getting up, what early 3-D style. He knew how the New York fans were feeling. But anyway, that is the home uniform they need. And for the away jersey, grey with the classic NEW YORK lettering like they have now, but with no shadowing. That is my considered aesthetic opinion. What to do about Oliver Pérez is a whole other thing.

Friday, September 25, 2009

David Stone, Under the El

In my view, David Stone is one of our most original experimental poets, though he is not sung in the halls of academe or in the HTML code of poetry blogs as often as he should be. That situation will change eventually, I think, as time goes on and Stone’s small press collections, chapbooks, and pamphlets get collected into more readily available volumes.

One of these chapbooks, though, quite available now, is Stone’s latest, Under the El, published by Alternating Current/Propaganda Press. It includes the long poem “Under the El,” set in Chicago where familiar Stonean elements congregate: “& on the asphalt/ a turkey vulture dines.” Shorter poems return to the setting of Baltimore, that apocalyptic city where Stone now lives: “another murderous day/ in this sad city/ where teachers/ are raped by students/ & more beatings on the buses/ & on subways” (“The Subway Glance”).

This is a poet who takes up death, history, war, and urban America unflinchingly, but whose language is therefore a little weird — stripped down to short declaratory sentences, as if desperately clinging to some sense of basic grammatical order. Unlike some experimentalists, whose language often reflects the disorder they find (by all means a valid and often beautiful response), philosopher Stone seeks beautiful logic in the illogical, if only in a ritual sense (as in “YK,” his Yom Kippur poem). There is always a subject and a verb, often an object, though each might not be the expected.

A poem that succinctly illustrates what Stone does is “The Fire Engine”:

The Fire Engine

The fire engine
skidded through
the intersection
& crushed
a compact car.

Earth whisked
wizardous rants.

Breathers reiterated
the aroma of death.

The cell counters
in Socrates’ tank.

Order Under the El through one of the links here, or through the mail for $5 (plus $2 U.S. shipping; $3 out-of-U.S. shipping) via cash, check, or money order made out to Alternating Current, P.O. Box 398058, Cambridge MA 02139, U.S.A.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jim Carroll, 1949-2009

I heard today that the great poet Jim Carroll died, and it was one of those weird moments where you say “Wow, that’s crazy, because I was just talking about him” – and indeed I was just telling someone the other day what a great poet he is (was), and pulled out his Catholic Boy album, and we briefly talked about the cover, how he’s standing there with these older people who it seems may be his parents, yet at the same time his cock is let’s say rather prominently noticeable through his jeans, and anyway “People Who Died” among others is a great song.

Like Patti Smith, Jim Carroll made the transition from being known primarily as a poet to also being known as a punk singer. I got into his writing after first digging his music (particularly Catholic Boy). Living at the Movies still stands as a landmark collection of poetry, drawing on the tradition of Arthur Rimbaud and the Symbolists, as well as the conversational New York vibe of Frank O’Hara (as in for example the opening of “To the Secret Poets of Kansas”):
Just because I can’t understand you
it doesn’t mean I hate
when you go on continuously how you
cannot tolerate skyscrapers or cab drivers

                maniac faces on Fifth, well

it means nothing to me I
just ignore as so often...

Well Rimbaud and O’Hara, I suppose these are not original comparisons, but if you are as good or even almost as good as them, then you’re in good company. And Jim Carroll is. The New York Times obituary calls him a “poet and punk rocker in the outlaw tradition of Rimbaud and Burroughs.” He was also the son of a bar owner. Most people probably know of Carroll because of the film The Basketball Diaries (still to my mind Leonardo DiCaprio’s best role). The film is good; the book is better. Better still his poetry. This is his short poem “Song”:

In minute gestures
                    that jet wetly slight
        right above your eyes
                                        each morning
I watch the sun cross over the reservoir
        all day sometimes
                     a few hours soaked into air cotton
like cloud syringes drawing up blue
                          like darkness when it’s through

Of course, offering a couple short extracts does not do Carroll justice. But when a poet dies one immediately thinks of his words, just as when a rock star dies (again he was both, though “star” might be stretching it) perhaps you play the music. Though Carroll was 60 years old, I can’t help thinking of the lines from his song “I Want the Angel,” which go, “And those who died young, they are my heroes/ They are my heroes, they took the walk/ Where the heart made sense and the mind can’t talk.” Here (below) is Jim Carroll doing “People Who Died,” and hopefully he wouldn’t mind me writing a new verse, maybe, at least in my head, something like “Jimmy had a heart attack, 60 years old, he looked like 55 when he died, he was a friend of mine...”