Monday, January 24, 2011

Waikato Times review of A Tingling Catch

The following review by Jeff Neems appeared in the Waikato Times, 14 January 2011, Leisure supplement, p. 15.


Verses for the Summer Game

Review of A Tingling Catch: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009, edited by Mark Pirie (HeadworX, RRP $34.99)

In the 17 years since I completed an English Literature degree at
Waikato University, I’ve barely read a single poem.
  Three years of literary study and more than a decade of journalism largely burnt out my desire for recreational reading, except for the odd music book or quirky non-fiction work.
  Mark Pirie’s collection of New Zealand cricket poetry sat on my shelves for several weeks until, with the summer heating up and the cricket season under way, I gave it a closer look.
  What a terrific volume it is. It’s surprising, firstly, to discover just how much poetry has been written about the national summer game – as the title indicates, some of the verses included date back more than a century – and cricketing material traversed include everything from Lord’s (the London ground considered the home of the game) to songs sung by club cricketers, backyard cricket, and peculiar bat-and-ball moments few actually remember. Foreign tours, run-outs, first-ball ducks, famous players’ failures – all the vagaries of cricket are included.
  Admittedly a handful of poems have only the most tenuous connection to cricket, but it’s enough to see them included. A line here or there on the game makes them worthy in the compiler’s view.
  Some of the poems spread across several pages, with numerous complicated verse which at times can be slightly difficult to follow. These are generally the older poems, and some may require a second reading to gain full comprehension – although, thankfully, in many cases, the context of the poems is briefly detailed in helpful footnotes.
  Several of Michael O’Leary’s cricket-based poems are included, based on popular songs from the likes of The Doors and Bob Marley.
  I’m now into my late 30s, so it’s the material from the late 1970s onwards which was of most interest to me.
  Pirie’s own ‘The Record’ – just two verses – details Martin Crowe’s failure to complete a triple-century at the Basin Reserve in 1991 (he was caught behind on 299). There’s an excellent homage to veteran New Zealand all-rounder Chris Harris, ‘Ode to Harry’, from an anonymous author who demands Harris’s inclusion in the national team. There’s a similar feel to ‘A Tribute to RJ Hadlee’ by Ian Donnelly, which praises the great seam and swing bowler over eight four-line verses. The book's most poignant entry is just two lines long from Harry Ricketts – his ‘Epitaph for an old cricketer’.
It goes:

Death’s sharp offcutter
has bowled you through the gate.

Touching stuff, and the words I’d like inscribed on my headstone.
  If the crack of leather ball on willow bat soundtracks your summer, and you’ve a taste for well-chosen words, Pirie’s anthology will delight you, and while away many hours between deliveries.

Jeff Neems is a Waikato Times feature writer and club cricketer.

Review © Jeff Neems 2011

No comments:

Post a Comment