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Noteworthy Items

October 19, 2009

In a narcissistic gesture (otherwise known as a post-hoc market survey) I searched the terms “racquetball poetry.” The results proved as relatively diverse as one might expect, but it hurts deep inside to not see our blog on the first page’s listings. Here’s a brief discussion of the first two listings in the search results.

This comment up at RoaneViews has as many things wrong with it as there are things right with “racquetball” and “poetry” appearing in the same sentence or phrase. (To be fair, I haven’t yet really approached the full implications of the previous sentence.) I’ll quote it at length here to spare you the hassle of control-clicking:

To understand poetry, it requires that one be still and listen. Poetry has the ability to explore profound universal truths, but not to those in a hurry. Bob Dylan is a poet, and one who would call his profound poetry “silly,” could be view as rather shallow and willfully ignorant.

Racquetball on the other hand is a totally competitive undertaking, shout, yell, shout, yell, work up a sweat, gloat in victory, stomp off when defeated. It is a poor model for dialogue.

I for one would like to read more poetry and watch less racquetball on this site. […]

First, it’s good to hear that there’s a site where people are discussing both racquetball and poetry. We need more of that in the world. But the comparison here, it seems almost too obvious to point out, fails right where it starts.

The assertion that one need “be still and listen” to appreciate poetry has the burden of proof. Do I appreciate poetry less when I listen to PennSound and Ubu recordings on an iPod while I’m running on the ol’ elliptical machine or strength training with free weights? I think not, though such a debate would have to deal explicitly with what John Searle refers to as the subjective aspectual shape of consciousness. In other words, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy Dylan when you’re in a hurry, though I will concede that it might be a different type of enjoyment (however useful the term “enjoyment” might be in such a discussion).

Next, Poetry has the ability to “explore profound universal truths” only so much as racquetball does. And there’s no reason why one cannot explore such truths (if they exist) when they’re “in a hurry,” whether that’s through a game of racquetball or a short poem. (I’m thinking here of much of Aram Saroyan’s work, in particular “lobstee.”)

Substitute the word “Poetry” for “racquetball” in the second paragraph, and I think you have a pretty good description of the seedier aspects of “Poetry wars” and the aesthetic skirmishes that constitute their “battles.” But these would only be one (very biased) view of either phenomena, in any case; I don’t think there’s anything inherent to racquetball (or poetry, or sports in general) that makes the competition which constitutes its intentional¬† “game-ness” produce poor sportsperson-ship. (Ah, yes, my gender inclusivity rears its darling head.) And there’s nothing about fierce competition that necessarily precludes dialog.

But here’s to you, Roane County, TN: You have more links to your site than we do to ours. In any case, I welcome “farmer leaf” to come play racquetball (or read poetry, or both) in the tournament and hope s/he’ll make the trek up.

I also came upon the following at RustyLand. The note at the top of the page says the text was written in ’88 and updated (presumably posted?) in 1999. I also want Rusty to come play in the tournament, though something tells me that Rusty’s probably farther away than Tennessee. So, Rusty, if you decide to enter & play in the tournament, you and you alone will have your tournament fee of $10 waived completely. (Or perhaps Rusty would like to serve as one of the guest commentators at the event?)

This is a purely conciliatory gesture offered in light of his contributions to ER studies … and in the hopes that a champion of the “Continental Grip” might vet out what I’ll call henceforth “The Yank” style of racquetball I’ve come to know and love here in the states. A healthy reverence for tradition will always serve us well. Rusty, who are you? And will you come play with us? We don’t need to dissect Rusty’s writing, because Rusty has done it for us. And you should really read Rusty’s literary analysis of Racquetball. So if you haven’t control-clicked that link yet, here it is again.

But don’t any of you start thinking that you’ll get free entry just because you write a text about racquetball and poetry. Why?

That brings me to the next point: any proceeds from the tournament entry fees above and beyond the costs to print the winner’s chapbook and the participants’ anthology will be devoted to purchasing more small press catalogues for the Racine Public Library’s poetry section. Although most publishers remain open to offering deep discounts on their full catalogues, funding is so tight at the library that its Sunday hours have recently been cut.

Nick Demske has done a tremendous job organizing the acquisition of the Fence and Tarpaulin Sky catalogues, but it would seem that the community needs to organize fundraisers to bolster the coffers devoted for specialty collections like this. Given its own nature, the RCbT has an obligation to supporting the accessibility of other presses, thus our decision to redirect proceeds rather than simply pocket the money (or even put the excess toward additional titles/runs). Moreover, all RCbT titles in the future (presumably two per year) will be donated to the Racine Public Library’s collection. And that’s a promise.

–Nicholas Michael Ravnikar

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