Merry Everything!

Whew. It’s been quite a few weeks. Talking with Bill Littlefield on “Only a Game” was like talking with an old friend. Thanks to WGVU for making their studio available for the conversation. Littlefield loves to laugh. And he followed up the show with a terrific review of Losing Season in The Boston Globe.

Then in came an email from The Institute for International Sport announcing that they had selected the collection for their Best Educational Sports Book for 2009.

No sooner did I read that message than the phone rang and the caller was Carol Jackson from NPR’s “The Story” hosted by Dick Gordon (second story of the program, if you follow that link). Carol Jackson talked with me for 45 minutes. After a bit I started to realize that she was making sure of my being someone they’d like to have on the broadcast and that she was asking all kinds of questions in order to find THE story that they’d like to feature. I was brain-exhausted after our conversation. I’ve always wondered how they created that program, because it is done so seamlessly as a narrative rather than as a talk show or interview. A story seems to emerge organically, but it’s clear now how much work it takes to create that, taking what the featured person says, connecting it all together, splicing in Dick Gordon’s observations and insights, creating a conversation and a story. After we finished the taping, Carol came back on to say that they were going to try to get some recordings of games when my father coached. Just incredible all they do to create each segment, and to think that they are on daily! She said that she does those pre-recording calls, researches material about the subject, sets up a sequence of what Dick is going to have the person talk about, and then they tape two segments a day, one from noon until 1:30, then another from 2-3:30. I can’t imagine how many hours day after day they all put in.

You might enjoy a look at their website. The mission statement is very moving, how they are dedicated to countering the culture’s emphasis on celebrity stories while finding, celebrating, preserving stories from those they feel are doing things of value, those who have stories of value. Dick Gordon said to me that if they don’t do this, “will anyone?” He’s very very concerned about the way our culture ignores stories that most of the time are much more important than those that are usually hurled at us.

Then came Keillor’s readings of a couple of the poems — a real thrill for me, and Amorak Huey’s careful review in the Grand Rapids Press.

I have yet to meet another poet who has had a book signing at a college basketball game, and I’m betting, meantime, that I’m the only poet, ever, to enjoy such an honor. The college’s bookstore actually sold more books at the Hope games last weekend than I ever have at a poetry reading, so perhaps I’ve tapped nto a secret poetry marketing vein…?

I’m really enjoying the readings hither and thither, and especially those that come with homemade cookies, like the one at Literary Life bookstore in Grand Rapids. What a perfect place for people who love books. If you haven’t checked it out yet, this is the right time of year, when the snow is falling, to crawl that wonderful stretch of Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids, pausing there for a good read or two.

Well, it’s been a good ride already. I’m just so grateful. We’re quieting down for a gentle Christmas with blankets of snow along the creek. Hope yours is good. And your new year too!

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3 thoughts on “Merry Everything!

  1. I’m jus’ absolutely delightified to hear of all that’s come of your wonderful book.

    I believe it’s tapped into something and somewhere where poetry may not have visited much before. Maybe it makes some sense too…

    Our culture is much more tuned into sports than it’s ever been to writing or poetry. I think that these events may be showing us that as the subject of the poems aligns with such a huge an area of general interest, that it can easily ‘bridge’ into what was formerly unconnected to that interest.

    Okay, I realize that what I just wrote verges on gibberish but, whatever the case, I think we can safely say that there’s something really interesting and noteworthy going on here… And, it reminds us that there are always yet new interconnections that can occur when the right chord is struck. Looks to me that these poems may be the first of their kind in being able to tap into that… Well-deserved congrats to ya!

  2. Okay, so I admit – I knew little about the game, that is until I started tutoring the players at Oakland Community College. Well, I fell in love with them so I started attending their games and then, of course, I fell in love with basketball. I understand why your books are selling at the game – because basketball IS poetry. Seriously. Think about it.

  3. Hi, Jack. Happy Holidays! Was listening to NPR and thrilled to hear you mentioned by Bill Littlefield, and of course loved the poem he chose to read. How exciting. I hope you are well–much love to your family and congratulations on all of the press.

    Best,
    Erin Beaver

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