Old Men Playing Basketball
-- B. H. Fairchild
Hap Notes: One of the many reasons I like poetry about sports (in addition to the slight edge of shadenfreude I feel when "sports guys" are shocked and slightly pained that there is such a thing) is the melding of the everyday and the body with the intellect. No poet deftly welds these things quite like B.H. Fairchild (born 1942) who manages to take a working class background and show us the poetry which lurks underneath the most common of experiences. He deftly illustrates why "common" is a word which means both something quotidian and something shared.
Fairchild was born in Houston and grew up around the oil fields of Oklahoma and Texas. His dad was a lathe machinist and he worked for his dad as he went through high school and college. He uses words the way a tool and die man uses machinery, in order to get a precise cut. He files the words like a jig grinder and this careful craftsmanship yields stunning results.
Fairchild taught literature at a number of universities, mostly in the heartland of Kansas and Texas (yes, I think Texas is part of the heartland- it's so full of music it has to be part of the heart.) He came to prominence as a writer with his book on the music of Blake's poetry and it is well worth a read or two: Such Holy Song: Music as Idea, Form, and Image in the Poetry of William Blake. (We'll get to Blake- I dropped the ball on that a week ago. I'll blame it on my jury duty but it's really because I haven't thought it out well enough to write about him yet.)
As to the poem, I love the beautiful details, the "glass wand" of light, the image of kissing the underside of the wrist, the houseshoes, the VFW's basketball hoop. I want those guys to fly up to the basket, don't you? Remember when you sang to the "drunken moon"?
Here's a good Fairchild quote taken from an essay her wrote for Poems Out Loud which you can find here:poemsoutloud.net/columns/archive/why_i_write/ : "I was drawn specifically to the writing of poems because, growing up among skilled laborers and artisans, people for whom the precise making of a thing was vital, I had a natural admiration for precision."
You can find more Fairchild here: www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/b-h-fairchild