Sunday, October 31, 2010

Beattie's Book Blog post on A Tingling Catch

I was delighted to find the following post on A Tingling Catch on Graham Beattie's highly regarded "Beattie's Book Blog" (Saturday 30 October 2010):

'A Tingling Catch' is the first anthology of New Zealand cricket poems to be collected. It is where poetry meets the essence of cricket: bowling, batting, fielding, commentary, cricket watching and listening, accounts of famous matches and players, childhood cricket poems, social members of the game and lots more!
The result is a wonderful insight into the world of cricket from all levels and standpoints of the game that will have the reader tingling for the next catch from some of our best poets. I have so enjoyed reading their poems.
The anthology presents some of New Zealand literature's most well-known names (and some overseas authors), both past and present, featuring highly acclaimed and award winning poets and cricket writers such as Don Neely, Kevin Ireland, Michael O'Leary, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, Brian Turner, Harry Ricketts, James Brown, Geoff Cochrane, John Clarke (aka Fred Dagg), Whim Wham, Denis Glover, Mark Pirie, Richard Langston, Bill Direen, William Pember Reeves, Elizabeth Smither, Anne French, David Eggleton, David Mitchell, Graham Lindsay, Thomas Bracken, Murray Edmond, Samuel Butler (England), Sir AP Herbert (England), Nick Whittock (Australia) among others.

Graham also lists three of his favourites from the book:



Eluding his opponent, knowledge,
He kicked and bowled his way through college;
And now that he has entered heaven,
He plays for Peter's 1st X1.



A game about which
you can know very little
and say anything
and be right sooner or later.


Epitaph for an old cricketer

Death's sharp offcutter
has bowled you though the gate.

Thanks Graham.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chris Boxall's cricket book I Am an Axeman

I’ve played cricket for several teams over the years and for two clubs: Hutt District Cricket Club and Wellington Collegians Cricket Club. I enjoyed playing cricket.
One of my best seasons was playing for the Wellington Collegians' “Axemen” in a social One-Day grade. It was great to be part of the team and have a special role in the side. My given nick-name was "Mr Burns" because of my then long hair and sideburns. I didn’t mind as hearing them call out "Burnsy" reminded me of that great Scots poet Robbie Burns. (Little did they know.)
My role was the close-in catcher, a dangerous position but cool to play a part in matches. I took 6 catches in 11 games that season and gained respect for pulling off some unbelievable ones that were smashed right at me. Bowser, our wicketkeeper, once called out: “Good stuff Pirie! Nice catch, good Michael Jackson manoeuvre!” It was a nice commendation of my one-handed take, up in the air, both feet off the ground. That season I also scored some runs. I mainly batted as a useful lower-order batsman at 7, 8 or 9.
The good run didn’t last though, my form and commitment fell away, I was promoted up the order but I simply wasn’t good enough to play as a batsman against the better bowlers, and I decided to retire from the Axemen after 3 seasons with them. The batting average from my last season was 0.85 after 9 games and 5 ducks. Pitiful. It’s never good being in a team when your soul isn’t in it and you’re not contributing to the team dynamic. I went back to my writing.
The following portrait of me by fellow Axeman and one of our best batsmen, Chris Boxall, is a revealing picture of the end of my Axemen days, especially the image ‘floating out the door off into another poem.’ I had been round to his place to give him a copy of my new cricket poetry book Slips. I included Chris’s “Axemen XI” in A Tingling Catch as a found prose poem. Sadly, I didn’t make the team of the best ever Axemen players. But Chris’s decision was fair. The “Axemen XI” was taken from his published book I Am an Axeman (about his efforts to score a century during his last season as an Axeman). It’s an entertaining and at times very honest book rife with cricketing sayings and quotations. Chris was a great team man and a very dependable opening batsman.


Mr Burns

The start of my last season as an Axeman was but a few weeks away and a week after lunching with Sally, the fields dried and we practiced outside.
We introduced a new rule – get out and that’s your net.  Really good session, and fifteen guys at a pre-season practice: that’s an Axeman record for sure!
All bodes fine for 08/09.
My net was pretty good; I pulled out my cover drives and slashing cuts, popped a few up and put the pull away.  Then Jules bowled me.  Shit, that sums it up: more practice needed.
So off to the pavilion I went – where some stew, some sulk, some vent.  But for me no time, no time, so I stripped my kit, grabbed a ball and cut the line.  It landed on a penny and rapped poor Tyler in the belly.
I got home after practice and chucked my bag on my bed.
Mr Burns knocked on the door, ah that’s right.  He came in carrying a sheepish smile, some memories and a bag.
I offered him a wine but he declined.
Meet Mr Burns – poet, enigma, cricket player, Axeman.
“Do you remember the game at Grenada,” he said, “when I split my webbing fielding the ball?  The other team put me in a sling on the sideline and later I was almost needed at number 11.  Big Bird said ‘remember Gavin Larsen’ and he helped put my pads on.”
The crocodile snaps at silly mid off and snaffles the ball, swallowing it whole and somewhat digesting the leather before spitting out a gooey pulp.
“I had an average of 14 in my first season,” he said.  “We won this game, I hit a four and Stelios said ‘good shot mate, who said you couldn’t bat?’”
Oops, maybe that was me.
You see it was no secret that he was a poet first, a catcher foremost and a cricket player way away another day.
I invited him over to have a quick look at my writing, but before the literary questions took, he slipped me a cricket poem from a new little book.  I thanked him and began flicking, “hey, how’s the team looking this year?” Mr Burns said but by this stage I wasn’t listening…

The Pavilion

Everyone likes to take
their chances: the dipping
catch at mid-on

grasped by urgent finger-tips,
or the unbeaten 50 that
has the opposition packing

early.  Or the swinging ball
that sends the stumps
cartwheeling into the air.

But, as with cricket,
as with life, there’s times
when things inevitably turn,

and even the best of us
spends their time stuck in the pavilion.

Good stuff.  Cricket ay, you gotta love it.
One of the best nights I ever had at the club was with Mr Burns.  There were about six of us on the balcony drinking and reading his poetry.
Maybe that’s why I play cricket: for the culture – perhaps this book will turn my batting fortunes around… do the literary Gods talk with the cricket Gods?  Maybe they do…
I snapped my thoughts like a ruler only to see Mr Burns floating out the door off into another poem.
I moved my cricket bag and sat on my bed, alone.
Alone in my pavilion, free time – nothing to do but sing and rhyme, what to do, what to do, silver beet, silver beet…
I dreamed of my century and of little feet and cricket bats.  I dreamed of my woman and our wonderful future.  I dreamed of Argentina and of Auckland and the way her forehead smells when I kiss her.
Only two hours till 10.30 before I call Juli as I do every night.  This gorgeous Argentinean woman, ai, she’s beautiful.
Alone in my pavilion I am, alone in Wellington.
I picked up my cricket bat – one day I’ll raise you.  Actually it feels good to be playing this season; it’s kind of like another chance.
You see, last season was very nearly my last.  I mean, I was feeling down anyway…
But then I was betrayed.

(Excerpt © Chris Boxall, including The Pavilion by Mark Pirie, from I Am An Axeman; The Copy Press, Nelson, 2009; ISBN 978-0-473-15756-2)

Thanks Chris for sharing the excerpt.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mark Pirie's new poem No Matter What

This year Ila Selwyn invited me to read at Lopdell House Gallery in Auckland. It was a nice event, good turnout. The occasion was National Poetry Day in July. As well as reading for 10 minutes each, the participants also contribute to a hand-crafted anthology of the reading. The book is beautifully made and hand-bound. Each poet has two poems in the book. The following cricket related poem of mine was selected for the book:


No Matter What

She asks me
about publishing books,
and the pressure to
better your last one.

Are there nerves,
are there doubts?

I tell her
it’s like at cricket,
worrying about
your batting average
before you
go in.

Sometimes you’ll be out
for a few
and other times you’ll make
a big score.

No point worrying really,
you just go out and play
no matter what.

© Mark Pirie, 2010

(from Red Tendrils, Lopdell House Gallery, Auckland, 2010)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mark Pirie's Slips - cricket poetry

Some readers will be wondering where I got started with writing cricket poetry. It’s not actually all I do, just one of the subjects I write on. Since 1999, I’ve published a steady stream of poetry books and often they have included a cricket poem. I may have written more than 30 cricket poems in total, which begs a fuller collection of my cricket poetry in the future, perhaps with illustrations. In 2008, I did release a mini book of cricket poems (a limited edition of 60 copies) through the Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop Mini Series of A6 booklets. Titled Slips (after the fielding position) it received a very good review from Tim Jones’ blog “Books in the Trees” (14 April 2008). I’ll include it here for your interest:


Review of Mark Pirie’s Slips: cricket poems

I discovered cricket in 1969. At the time, we lived in Otatara, south of Invercargill. The only access I had to test cricket (for the uninitiated, this means five-day games between nations) was via radio: 4YC out of Dunedin were broadcasting commentaries on that summer's tests between New Zealand and the West Indies. It wasn't a powerful station, and the only way I could get reception in our house was to put my radio on top of the metal toilet cistern, which amplified the signal. (It's possible this was inconvenient to other occupants of the house.)
Cricket is an old game which has developed a massive literature: not just the primary literature of statistics and match reports, but a secondary literature of fiction, poetry and plays. Mark Pirie has recently made a welcome addition to this literature with Slips, which is No. 21 in the Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop's excellent mini-series of poem booklets. Slips is dedicated to Harry Ricketts, another cricketing poet (and biographer), thus acknowledging its place in this literary tradition.
Mark knows whereof he speaks. My cricketing days are well past me, but my son played junior cricket up to the 2006/07 season, and several times, just as his team were packing up for the day, Mark would turn up with his senior team. The cover of Slips shows Mark poised to take a slips catch (again, for US readers, the slips are like extra shortstops who stand behind the batter and take catches off what in baseball would be fouls).
All the poems inside are about, or at least allude to, cricket. These allusions range from the glancing to the highly statistical: "Legacies and Cold Stats" and "Fiery Fred" would delight any cricket historian, while the longest poem, "11 Ways of Being Dismissed", is based on a Cricinfo article about eleven unusual dismissals.
My two favourite poems in the book aren't so stats-heavy. "At Browns Bay" is a beautiful love lyric, while "The Pavilion", following a long literary tradition, uses cricket as a metaphor for life.
This book displays many of the virtues of Mark Pirie's poetry: humour, moving writing about grief and loss, and some classic last lines. I particularly like the final line of "Joe", about a gentleman who starts distracting the scorer:

I watch his words aeroplane up and down his breath.

Whether or not you know your doosra from your googly, Slips is worth catching.

Review copyright Tim Jones, 2008

Writing cricket poems certainly encouraged my interest in finding cricket poems by other New Zealand poets, and that’s how the anthology A Tingling Catch was conceived. Little did I know there was a wealth of material to be found. I emailed a few New Zealand poets who I knew had an interest in the game. Four years of searching yielded well over 200 pages of material. I cut A Tingling Catch to 189 pages in the end. Still a very substantial read.

Below: Photo of Mark Pirie from the cover of Slips by Gemma Claire

Cricket Poetry – Arthur Salway’s cricket poems

Occasionally I Google ‘cricket poetry’ to see if there are other kindred spirits at work. There’s a good cricket poetry blog in Australia, David Fine’s Ashes Poetry and
I also found one arresting site in England. It’s the web site of the English poet Arthur Salway, described as “the website of cricket verse. The poet Arthur Salway shares his insight on the game…” The link is:
The author’s bio states: “Arthur is a retired mathematics teacher living in Hampshire, England. Now aged 71, he played his last mildly competitive match, unknowingly of course, aged 68. He remembers watching Gloucestershire at Bristol as a boy and admiring the strokeplay of Walter Hammond, Charlie Barnett, George Emmett, and the emerging Tom Graveney.”
Arthur also makes a note about his reasons for writing cricket poetry:

[Arthur] sees cricket as an instance of the whole exceeding the sum of the parts and his poems seek to exploit the area of difference. They are essentially for cricketers, drawing on a knowledge of the game, its devotees, participants, and ethos.
Many of the poems were written for team evenings and are presented for your reading due to the insistence of his erstwhile team-mates. Arthur very much hopes that you will enjoy some, if not all, of them.

The website primarily contains Arthur’s cricket poetry, neat action pics of cricket matches as well as videos and games. Arthur writes well. His tools are rhyme and rhythm and he explores various facets of the game, sometimes in great depth. There is a detailed description of a team kit bag:

Our bag is green & made of canvas, strong and leather bound,
Overfilled with kit we’ve purchased, borrowed, begged or found;
Emptied out on summer evenings when it doesn’t rain,
But frankly half the stuff it holds we’ll never use again-
Worn out gloves with pimply rubber stitched up to the knuckles,
Floppy pads with leather straps & little jingly buckles,
All marked ‘Brookfield School’ in pen in prominent positions,
And some with names of other clubs, nicked from the opposition.

Arthur’s poetry is illuminating and witty, with a wide range of poems offered. There are poems on bowling, batting, the scorebook, the cricketer’s appearance, the pavilion, the cricket field, golden moments, and reflections on the game of cricket. Here’s a favourite stanza of mine from ‘The Flick of the Wrist’:

Soccer is won with cultured feet
And rugger with grit and grist;
But when cricket is played the difference is made
By a delicate turn of the wrist.

Like David Fine's "Ashes Poetry", Salway's "Cricket Poetry" is well worth checking out.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Robert J. Pope - NZ poet and cricketer

In January of this year I discovered two poetry books published by colonial poet Robert J. Pope, a “Kaiwarra” (now known as Kaiwharawhara) School Principal and Wellington cricketer (old Star club and Wellington club). Robert grew up in Dunedin and was the son of Henry Pope who founded the native school system.
Pope, among other things, wrote two poem tributes to the late Wellington College Headmaster and Wellington cricketer J.P. Firth (1859-1931) as well as music and lyrics for various songs (including a Wellington College school song).
Pope and Firth were noted Wellington cricketers. Pope features in A Tingling Catch with his poem 'King Willow', which was penned at the opening of the 1932 cricket season. In Pope's manuscript collection in the Alexander Turnbull Library there is a newspaper clipping on his cricket club days after the Star Club won the local Wellington league. Pope is in the list of notable cricketers of the club. Firth, unlike Pope, played First Class cricket from 1880/81-1885/86 and is the more well known of the two. Firth was an all-rounder for Nelson and Wellington with a top score of 56 as a right-hand batsman and he took 32 wickets as a left-arm fast bowler at an average of 8.06. He helped foster the development of cricket in Wellington.
Firth must’ve appreciated the poems and song. He was well known at the college for his morning verse recitations taken from the Spectator. In the Turnbull, I found, among the Robert Pope manuscript books, a hand-written note from J.P. Firth to Robert:

My Dearest Bob,
It was most kind to send me a copy of your verses, which I like very much. The dedication to me makes me feel very proud…
Your generous words will always be treasured and will give me never failing pleasure…
Yours sincerely,

J.P. Firth

Here are Pope’s verses for Firth:

Mourn for the Brave

To J. P. FIRTH, E.S.Q., C.M.G.
(Late Headmaster, Wellington College.)

(Published in the NZ School Journal)

Mourn for the brave,
   That loyal steadfast band
Who sleep their last lone sleep
   Far from their Native land,
Roused by their country’s call,
   Unmindful of the cost,
These risked in Freedom’s cause
  Their all – and nobly lost
With wreaths of laurel green
  Sweet rosemary entwine,
Fit tribute to the dead,
  Whose mem’ry we enshrine.

Mourn for the brave:
  Now low in death they lie;
So long as Time remains,
  Their glory shall not die.
They shrank not from the blow
  That made the wide world quake;
They leapt into the breach,
  And died for England’s sake,
No more with kindling eye
  Ambition’s height they climb;
They reached Life’s utmost peak –
  The sacrifice sublime.

Mourn for the brave;
  Though tears must vainly flow;
Our grief can ne’er repay
  The boundless debt we owe.
What monument can we
  To their great name upraise
Whose honours far transcend
  The clarion voice of praise?
O let our off’ring be
  A brotherhood so wide
That all the world shall know
  ‘Twas not in vain they died.

“The Boss”
(An affectionate tribute to Mr J.P. Firth on his retirement,
after nearly 30 years as Headmaster of Wellington College.)

Who taught us how to play the game,
How might and right are not the same,
That honest work is more than fame?
“The Boss.”

Who led us all to strive with vim,
To scorn all methods that were “slim”,
To prize a word of praise from him?
“The Boss.”

Who, happ’ning on us unaware,
When mischief dire was in the air,
Politely asked, “How will you square?”
“The Boss.”

Who from his modest six-feet-five,
Would hope in four-feet-two revive,
Thenceforth the proudest boy alive?
“The Boss.”

Who in our school-days sowed the seed
That blossomed in the Empire’s need,
And gave us Honour for our creed?
“The Boss.”

Who shared our joys of bat and ball,
Who roused us at our country’s call,
And won the hearts of one and all?
“The Boss.”

J.P. Firth was known after he retired as “The Boss”.
I note further that Robert J. Pope (1863-1949) was a regular contributor to the Evening Post and the NZ School Journal and had a reputation as a violinist and composer. His two books of verse published late in his life (Some New Zealand Lyrics (1928) and A New Zealander’s Fancies in Verse (1946)) appear to be the only poetry he published in book form. The two world wars had a significant influence on Pope's verse. He also wrote many prose works. His song ‘New Zealand, My Homeland’ was published in the School Journal and became used in schools from North Cape to the Bluff. There is a copy of the sheet music in the National Library of New Zealand. In 1970 there was newspaper correspondence over the song being made the National Anthem. I am currently preparing a fresh selection of his poems for publication.

Article © Mark Pirie, 2010

Below: Photo of Robert J. Pope, from The Evening Post newspaper, 1949.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Capital Times - Review of A Tingling Catch

I was delighted to find the following review by Martin Doyle, a well-known Capital Times columnist and poet, in Capital Times this week. Martin used to organise a great series of poetry readings in Berhampore, Wellington. Thanks Martin.


New eyes for cricketers

If you're one of those readers who's been waiting patiently on the boundary for a juicy literary gimme from the men at the crease, throw your cap in the air and spread your hands wide: A Tingling Catch is the answer to all your prayers. And, according to HeadworX, it's also the first anthology of New Zealand cricket poems to be collected. In fact you score 125 poems "off" 75 (nearly all male) poets and even a "Streaker" at the end, so there's never a dull moment. Pirie has picked poems from as early as 1864 right through to last year. He has structured the book round half a dozen major themes, such as "Players" and "Matches and Tours" For connoisseurs of cricket, it reads like a letter from home with references to Sutcliffe and Wadsworth, Karori and The Basin. Anyone who's into language will enjoy a healthy dose of that in-spinning vocabulary that belongs to cricket: rising balls, googlies, missed sweep shots and cover drives. And speaking of covers, Jocelyn Galsworthy's detailed watercolour (on the cover of the book) of England playing New Zealand in Wellington in 2002 further demonstrates the valuable but seldom-performed role artists can play in relation to sport. I love the humour of poems like "Catches I have dropped" by Scott Kendrick and Wellingtonian Harry Ricketts' "An NZ Lit XI" where he picks writers for their cricketing (yeah, yeah: we believe you) ability such as: "Gee, champion crease-prowler / steady accumulator off back-foot". And like a true Wellingtonian, Anne French takes out the middle stump with several lines describing her "lust" for one of the players. She gives no names but this is the sort of writing that will have everyone looking at everyone with new eyes this summer. Overall, a good knock.

(From Capital Times, Vol. 36, No. 2, 20-26 October 2010)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Richard Langston discusses A Tingling Catch

Richard Langston discussed A Tingling Catch with Jim Mora on Friday afternoon on Radio NZ National’s Afternoons (15/10/2010). Here’s the link to the downloadable audio version from The Panel, Part II:
Here's a transcript of Richard's talk:

Richard Langston: There’s a new book out edited by Wellington poet Mark Pirie and he’s a cricket nut and he’s edited this wonderful collection of cricket poems: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009 and called it A Tingling Catch.
  It has some of the stuff you’d expect: Brian Turner and Harry Ricketts who are well known fans of cricket, but it also has other poets you might not expect to find in a cricket anthology such as Elizabeth Smither (from New Plymouth) who writes two excellent poems and also people who are kind of ‘outsider’ poets like Peter Olds in Dunedin and Geoff Cochrane in Wellington who also write about the game.
  So, it’s a really interesting collection. It’s not the sort of collection that celebrates great moments in sport. It celebrates all the peculiarities of cricket and people’s attitudes towards it and the oddities the game has thrown up and there’s lots of curiosities, including two poems that somebody [Graham Hutchins] found in a scorebook in Dunedin. I want to believe that’s true, that they were found in a scorebook in Dunedin because it’s such a lovely story and two interesting poems as well.
  The book has many sections in it: straighter stuff and parodies, a lot of humour. I’ve got two poems in the ‘Social Members’ section which is probably a good place for me to be, I was a pretty social cricketer, and my poem I’ll read is called ‘A Peculiar Game Not Played in Oklahoma’:

Once I tried to explain to a bunch
of Americans watching baseball

in a bar the game I loved to play
or watch in summer on a green field

with all the players in white was called
cricket and its highest expression

was played over five days and quite often
after many sessions of ebb and flow

of physical striving after five days
of  mind on mind quite often

there was no result nothing de nada
laughter rocked and tipped the barstools

I worked for three months in Oklahoma cooking burgers and I could never explain cricket to anyone without them falling about laughing, ‘You’re kidding me, man!’
Irene Gardiner: Nothing happens…
Richard Langston: But that’s the marvel of the game.
  Anyway, there’s better poems in the book. Honestly it’s a great read and it’s going to be launched at the end of the month, Sunday October 31, at the Basin Reserve Longroom and NZ Cricket Museum by Don Neely who is better known as a national selector but he has a poem in the book which is a take-off of Shakespeare, ‘To walk or not to walk…’
Jim Mora: That’s interesting, he was a good cricketer and a great cricket writer. What’s it called again?
Richard Langston: A Tingling Catch - and it’s put out by HeadworX, edited by Mark Pirie, and he’s got a blog devoted to the book already.
Jim Mora: Very good, Richard Langston on the Panel with Irene Gardiner.

Thanks, Richard. Richard, a TV3 Campbell Live reporter and poet, has two cricket poems in A Tingling Catch. One of them features a cricket streaker while the other poem is quoted above. Both display Langston’s distinct brand of droll humour. He’s also written another unpublished cricket poem. It’s worth sharing with you here:


In the Deep

Lesser cricketers in quiet stormy corners
of the country were stoic and patient.

‘Wait,’ they’d say expecting disaster.
They had a secret love of rain

of retiring to the damp musty smell
of the shed to stare at the state of their lives

or the want of them. The persistence of rain
sent them off to the pub to muse

of sunny days, of finally getting
on the board.

© Richard Langston, 2010

The poem’s as good an explanation as any I’ve seen of rained off cricket matches. If you’ve ever played club cricket in Wellington during November you are usually somewhere in the deep. You can well understand the frustration of turning up on Saturday to a washed out match and an early beer or shower in the clubrooms. Next Saturday you ‘muse’, you’ll get on the scoreboard. Of course, the poem works on more than one level.

Monday, October 18, 2010

David Mealing’s French Artists Cricket XI

David Mealing, curator of the New Zealand Cricket Museum, gave me his 'French Artists Cricket XI' to share - a good read. My particular favourites are Édith Piaf and Marcel Duchamp, both excellent as cricketers.


French Artists Cricket XI

Honoré de Balzac – bats with a creative exuberance rarely equalled for an opening batsman. His style is often perceived as clumsy and inelegant by canons of classical French batting, but he plays with a vigour and speed that consistently achieves a good run rate. A marvellous breath of outlook and grasp of the nuances of batting technique, his succession of good scores with a high average have established him as one of the world's finest batsmen.

Marcel Proust – one of the foremost batsmen of his era. Slow in starting his innings, he can occupy the crease for long periods. He has wonderful concentration and dedication and can subsist on a meagre diet of runs for extended periods when pressure is applied by the opposition. Although late in starting his Test career, he has achieved considerable success through his own originality and style and the coaching of Ruskin.

Victor Hugo (Captain) – considered by some critics, to be the greatest French batsman. His genius was precocious and in his early twenties he was already destined to become part of the French national consciousness. His batting destroyed the old neo-classical conventions, and his 'volumes' of high scores and average have been distinguished by technical innovations, exotic colouring and stylistic brio. He breathes confidence in the destiny of his team.

Marcel Duchamp – an innovative, unorthodox top order batsman, his name is treated with almost mystical respect by peers and cricketers of a younger generation. He has the ability to take opposing attacks apart by abandoning caution and by relying on superb hand-eye co-ordination to achieve influential scores to help win matches. The term 'bowlers stripped bare by Duchamp even' has often been used to describe his polemical Dadaist style.

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette – a surprise selection, Colette is a largely self-taught cricketer from the country, who quickly immersed herself amongst the cricketing fraternity at the Bohemia Cricket Academy in Paris. This experience has led her to successfully apply her amoral peasant batting approach and exceptional powers of shot selection to the psychological complexities of batting in the middle-order, often in times of crisis.

Henri Matisse – an all-rounder whose medium-fast bowling is merely an extension of his batting. An expressive, exuberant player, with a seriousness of purpose that is totally different from others in mood and technique. In his cricket primitive art forms are assimilated without their disturbing violence and his treatment of opposing batting and bowling attacks, and his emancipation of the all-rounders role, never loses sight of their artistic, pictorial value.

Henri Cartier-Bresson – wicket-keeper. He has very good eyesight and visual perception and is extremely competent behind the stumps. His theory of wicket-keeping holds that the keeper must become as inconspicuous as possible in order to catch or stump batsmen unawares in a series of 'decisive moments', In this respect he has achieved outstanding results, often with a deliberate hand movement as an 'extension of the eye'.

Maurice Ravel – an elegant leg-spin bowler who has absorbed a range of classical influences from the best exponents of his craft. Renowned for his sensuous use of imparting pronounced spin on the ball, his best known delivery is the Bolero. His virtuoso ball skills have placed him alongside Debussy as the inventor of 'impressionism', a ball to rival the googly. A useful batsman who combines sensitivity and emotion with glittering strokes.

Édith Piaf – discovered by a nightclub owner who persuaded her to bowl offspinners, she acquired the name of 'The Little Sparrow'. She produced her signature performance in a memorable match against Germany and during this time was selected on a regular basis and became very successful. Revered as one of the greatest spin-bowlers France has produced, this fragile figure has produced some resounding performances on deteriorating pitches.

Hector Berlioz – opening fast-medium bowler. He can impart substantial swing movement with the new ball. His calculated dissonances, long ranging, yet in fact coherent, melodies ensure good line and length. His speed and the huge forces he consistently uses means that he regularly makes an early breakthrough in the opposition's batting order. Often the subject of abuse from rival spectators or acclaim from team supporters.

Émile Zola – opening bowler with the new ball in tandem with Berlioz. He can shock the opposition batsmen with a succession of bouncers and short pitched balls. Often at odds with cricket authorities. He consistently exposes batsmen's weaknesses through his strong social commentaries, love of truth and crusading zeal. A relentless workhorse, he has the ability to bowl effectively for long spells and dismantle opposing batting sides.

Albert Camus (12th man) – opening batsman. Won the Nobel Prize for Cricket in 1957. Regarded as a 'Mediterranean' cricketer, he is regularly in competition for an opening position with Balzac and Proust. Sharing a similar theoretical approach to the coaching staff, he is often in conflict with the coach over the attitude to adopt towards team selection. He is distinguished by his exceptional stylistic gift and by his search for a regular place in the team.

Coaching Staff

Jean Paul Sartre – A successful coach who has tried to produce an existential ethical system and to combine Marxism with cricket strategy. He teaches philosophy intermittently and his didactic and purposive nature gives them force at team coaching clinics. His themes are dramatic – cricketers 'abandonment' by God and the need to exercise freedom in making choices, and the final nature of all action, intentions going for nothing.

Simone de Beauvoir – a long-time association with Sartre as national coach. Co-responsible in founding (1941) the French Cricket Coaching Manual. Her work in the coaching structure deals with existential problems in relations to the individual and the team dynamic. She is an ardent feminist and states her case most fully at training sessions and team meetings. She disseminates philosophical and political ideas to enhance team performance.

Playing Squad

Charles-Valentin Alkan (13th Man) – drinks carrier. Susceptible to concussion, particularly when reaching for the team's training manual, the Talmud.

Jacques Tati – superb fieldsman at long leg. Often placed there because of his protest against the dehumanising influence of One-Day cricket.

Marcel Marceau – wonderful slow left-arm spin bowler who has great difficulty and frustration convincing the umpires of successful LBW appeals.

Camille Claudel – hugely under-rated. Often not included in the squad in preference to Rodin. Unknown in Australia.

Isabelle Adjani – a talented, promising young player. Unknown in Australia.

Jean Luc-Godard enfant terrible of the French new wave of cricketers. Collegial doubts about fitting into the team dynamic. See François Truffaut below.

François Truffaut – good track record – less demanding on spectators. Often in conflict with Godard e.g. his famous quote –
"Once a Shit, Always a Shit."

© David Mealing, 2010

Thanks David.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Anthony Rudolf – UK poet with a cricket interest

My friend poet/translator Anthony Rudolf recently released a new book of his poetry. It has occupied my mental life for most of the past week. This is Anthony’s first new book of poetry for over 30 years and is something to celebrate though he has collaborated with visual artists in between. Zigzag released by Northern House/Carcanet in England is a slim but very substantial collection of his poetry/prose sequences. The book includes a noteworthy sequence about his grandfather Josef Rudolf.
The sequence, ‘Josef Rudolf, my Zeida’, owes something to American poet Charles Reznikoff’s two powerful books Holocaust and Testimony and covers autobiographical territory relating to his grandfather’s life. Written in the colloquial tone of his grandfather, it conveys with insight and detachment his grandfather’s life as a Jew. Anthony includes himself in the poem as “AR” interjecting and making comments in italics throughout the poem like a film documentary.
Elsewhere Rudolf returns to his Jewish childhood in London (after Schumann’s piano suite Kinderszenen, Scenes from Childhood). The unpublished sequence ‘Zigzag’ written while Rudolf was teaching autobiography at Metropolitan University in London is compulsory reading for anyone studying biography/autobiography with all its zigs and zags. The book concludes with a minimalist sequence ‘Mandorla’, while the opening prose sequence ‘Kafka’s Doll’ uses its conventions of children's stories for adults. Overall, a very rewarding and engrossing read. Rudolf's Zigzag is available online from Amazon UK among other places.
Rudolf was a friend of Ted Hughes. Hughes's critical comment features on the back of the book: “Every poem like a new geometry – of surprises… A sort of sewing of a hyper-active intelligence to hypersensitive skin…” Anthony published Sylvia Plath’s translations of the French poet Ronsard written while she was at Cambridge University through his Menard Press in London. Rudolf is himself best known as a translator, including translating French verse by Yves Bonnefoy and Claude Vigée.
Anthony tells me he has played and also has an interest in cricket. He has met England great Jack Hobbs and played with and against Mike Brearley in school days. There is one reference to the unfortunately named cricketer Jack Crapp in Rudolf’s sequence about his grandfather, mentioning an Austro-Hungarian cavalry rider:

AR: What was his name?

Zeida cackled.
You potz
(Yiddish word for prick, literally and metaphorically, in English)
Yankel Kakka, that was his name.
Yankel Kakka
(Jack Crapp – the name of a Gloucestershire and England cricketer in the forties and fifties – is an accurate and perfect translation of the name)

(‘Josef Rudolf, my Zeida’, p. 22.)

Jack Crapp (1912-81) was a sound left-hand batsman for Gloucestershire. He amassed 23, 615 runs in First Class matches at an average of 35.03. He played seven Tests for England with a top score of 56.
Thanks Anthony for passing on your cricket interest. Anthony says he may write up his own cricket stories some time in the future.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

How Do I Order A Tingling Catch?

A question from people viewing my blog is: ‘How do I order A Tingling Catch?’
Well, I know it is now available at Unity Books in Wellington and the New Zealand Cricket Museum at the Basin Reserve, and over 20 New Zealand libraries (including Waipa, Thames, Christchurch, Hutt City, Auckland University, Kapiti, Hocken Library (Dunedin), Victoria University and Whangarei libraries) in New Zealand hold copies as well as The Poetry Library, Southbank Centre, London. The book is distributed in New Zealand by HeadworX in Wellington and most booksellers can order in copies through HeadworX. Website: But for overseas visitors it might be more of a problem.
So far I have seen the book listed on the internet by the following booksellers and bookselling sites: Borders Australia, Emporium Books Australia, Boomerang Books Australia, Fishpond (New Zealand), Mighty Ape (New Zealand), Academy Books (New Zealand) and Wheelers Books (New Zealand).
Here's a link to Mighty Ape:
I hope by visiting this website overseas people can place an order for the book. Mighty Ape offers international delivery.

Eva Burfield’s 1961 cricket short story

This year I visited Auckland’s Hard to Find Books owned by poet/small press publisher Warwick Sven Jordan (Hard Echo Press). Upstairs in the New Zealand room I found 34 issues of Arena magazine edited by journalist/poet Noel Farr Hoggard (1913-75). I bought the copies to give to the Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa. Arena is a collectible literary magazine. I know of two book collectors who have full sets. Peter Andrews has made a complete bibliography to Hoggard’s literary magazines (New Triad as well as Arena).
Arena was painstakingly handset by Hoggard’s Handcraft Press in Pukerua Bay, Wellington. It began as Letters for the first 10 issues and after became Arena up to issue 81 in 1975, when Hoggard died. Hoggard is one of the unsung heroes of New Zealand writing, encouraging and nurturing talent for 40 years. He was refreshingly open in his selection policy giving space to older generations as well as the more radical baby boomers emerging in the late 1960s. It is possible he had an interest in cricket.
Arena, No. 51, Autumn 1961, contains a rare cricket short story by a New Zealand writer Eva Burfield. Rob Franks’ bibliography, Kiwi Cricket Pages, lists around a dozen local works of cricket fiction (including Michael O’Leary’s Out of It) but it does not explore short story publication in journals and newspapers. I know of a few more cricket short stories written by New Zealand writers, e.g. Janet Frame, Elizabeth Smither and Tim Jones.
Further checking of the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington shows that Eva Burfield’s real or preferred name is Eva Frances Ebbett, born 1925. The Turnbull has a transcript of the story as well as the correspondence between Ebbett and Hoggard. In the National Library catalogue Ebbett is listed as the author of eight popular fiction-romance novels (under the name of Eva Burfield) published in England by Wright & Brown, London, from the 1950s to the 1960s. Ulverscroft Large Print Books, Leicester, England, reissued her novels from 1986-1997. Under the name of Eva Ebbett, she has one title: Waipukurau School Centenary, 1967. Under the name of Eve Ebbett she has published further works of fiction (Give Them Swing Bands) and non-fiction (Victoria’s Daughters: New Zealand Women of the Thirties and When The Boys Were Away: New Zealand Women in World War II). Critic Joan Stevens mentions her early novels in The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965 (available online at the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre), and she is interviewed by Rachel McAlpine in The Passionate Pen: New Zealand’s Romance Writers Talk to Rachel McAlpine (Hazard Press, Christchurch, 1998). Yet there is virtually no mention or record of her in either the Oxford History of New Zealand Literature or Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature. The Oxford History contains a mention of her non-fiction under the name of Eve Ebbett. Her author names do turn up on the internet and there seems to be plenty of her books for sale through second-hand booksellers and on Trade Me.
I’d like to share the Arena short story with you here:


A Game of Cricket

When george opened the door after the light knock, it was Miss Simmons from the flat upstairs. Poor old Miss Simmons, Emily used to call her. But she wasn’t really old. Possibly younger than Emily herself.
He had seen her coming along the street, walking briskly, bent slightly against a frisky breeze. One of the front windows had rattled in the wind and he was standing there closing it. It was a lovely spring evening that reminded him of Emily and sitting on the porch overlooking the street. It was sheltered on the porch. On summer nights they would walk along to the park on the corner to see the cricket, but, at this time of the year, Emily had needed to be careful and watch her chest. It got chilly later on.
‘Oh, Mr Jennings,’ Miss Simmons murmured just a little too brightly, kind but ill-at-ease. ‘I was just on my way up to my flat when I realized you must be alone...’ She waved her hand vaguely. ‘I mean there are no cars outside. There’s been so many people coming and going since the funeral, I didn’t like to intrude. But now I feel I just simply must come in and say how sorry I am about Mrs Jennings.
He held the door open a little wider.
‘Er ... come in,’ he invited, wishing that she had not caught him in his slippers with his waistcoat undone. His free hand fumbled with the buttons.
‘I was amazed to see the notice in the paper. I mean she seemed so well. It was so sudden. Was it her heart?’
‘Well, yes. In a way. It was weakened by her bronchitis. The last attack was too much for it.’ Poor Emily. Such a patient sufferer.
‘And not very old at all,’ the bright little voice went on.
‘She was sixty. That’s all. Just sixty.’ He could hear the kettle boiling over on the gas and there was a suggestive smell of burning paper coming from the oven. His dinner. He had popped the fish and chips, still in their newspaper wrapping, into the oven while the kettle boiled for the tea.
‘Excuse me.’ He hurried into the kitchenette off the living room and turned off the gas jet. He lowered the oven temperature and peeked inside. Caught in time. The paper was not yet alight. He poured the water from the hissing kettle into the tea pot. He was visible from the living-room and there was nothing else for it. The poor old girl was probably exhausted after battling home from the office against that wind.
‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ he asked her. ‘Just made one.’
‘Why, yes, thank you, Mr Jennings. That would be nice; if it’s not too much trouble.’
He pulled a tray out of a cupboard and set it with two cups and saucers, the sugar basin, and the milk jug into which he hastily emptied milk from the bottle.
Sitting in the living-room, Miss Simmons looked round with interest. This was the first time she had been in the flat though they had been neighbours for ten months. Really the place already suffered for want of a woman’s hand. Last night’s newspaper was spread over the sofa, tonight’s lay on the floor by an easy chair. Mr Jennings’ shoes were in the centre of the room and his working jacket hung behind the door. Her fingers itched to straighten it all out. He carried the tray in from the kitchenette and placed it on a small table.
‘You take milk?’ he asked.
‘Oh, do let me do that,’ she cried, standing up and grasping the tea pot. Women know about these things.’ She pushed him lightly into her vacant chair. ‘Now, do you take milk?’
She held up a warning finger to silence him. ‘Don’t tell me, let me guess,’ she went on. ‘Of course you do. Being alone you wouldn’t buy milk if you didn’t take it, would you?’
She poured two cups of tea, handed him one and sat down opposite him on the overloaded sofa. She was suddenly very serious.
‘Mr Jennings, I want you to know you do have my deepest sympathy. I have noticed in the past how – how close you and Mrs Jennings were. So fond of each other. It must be a terrible blow for you. Your children will be a great comfort to you.’
‘I have no children,’ he told her, sipping the tea and hoping she would soon go and leave him in peace.
‘Oh –’ She coloured violently and gestured towards the two photographs on the mantlepiece. ‘I thought ...’
‘They are both dead,’ he said flatly. ‘The boy was killed in the war and the girl was a – a spastic. She died when she was five .. .’
‘Oh dear.’ She was so genuinely distressed, he felt sorry for her. ‘That is terrible; just when you need them so much,’ she added oddly. ‘Perhaps you have other close relations. Brothers or sisters maybe?’ She was really concerned for him.
‘I did have them,’ he admitted, ‘but I’m afraid I’ve outlived them all. I was the youngest, you see. No, there’s no one.’
She digested this in stunned silence. He could just feel the waves of sympathy flowing out to him. She leaned towards him intensely.
‘But you have had them, Mr Jennings. You must be consoled by that. You have known what it is like to love and be loved, to have someone care what happens to you, someone to think about...’
She put the cup and saucer back on the table and stood up. Surprised, he watched her pace about the room, her hands clasped before her.
Swinging round towards him, she went on: ‘I envy you, Mr Jennings. You have no one now, but I have never had anyone.’ She breathed deeply. ‘I’ve never had anyone. I was an orphan brought up in a home. All my life I’ve longed for what you have had. Parents, brothers and sisters, marriage and children. Even marriage has eluded me. I used to console myself in the orphanage with the thought that one day I would be married and have children to fuss over and worry about. I never had the opportunity...’ Turning away from him, she blew delicately into her handkerchief.
‘Would you like another cup of tea?’ he asked, foolishly.
She sat down again. ‘No. No, thank you. I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to burden you with my troubles. I meant to – to console you in your loss. Try to be grateful for the past...’
The past. He stared at the photographs of his children on the mantlepiece. Frail little Ellie. The awful anxiety came back. Tom. All he could remember of Tom was the terrible concern for his safety that he and Emily had borne while Tom was overseas.
Miss Simmons stood up. She was still fighting for composure, smoothing her skirt, removing a hair pin and replacing it more firmly.
‘I must go now,’ she said. She brightened. ‘Thank you so much for the tea, Mr Jennings. You must let me return it sometime. Yes, please do let me. Let me cook your dinner some night. I’m a good cook. I really am, you know. I should love to have you to dinner one evening.’ She was her anxious-to-please self again. ‘And if you have any washing you would like done, I would be so glad to do it. Just ask me any time.’
She was in the doorway, ready to depart.
‘Don’t stay home too much on your own,’ she warned him intensely. ‘Believe me I know what it is like to be lonely. Dusk is the time; yes dusk. The evenings are the worst time.’
He closed the door behind her. His fish and chips would be hard and inedible. ‘Funny old thing,’ he said aloud.
The breeze had dropped. He went across to the window and opened it again. A lovely spring evening. Tonight he would walk along to the park and watch the cricket for a while. He always did like a game of cricket. And coming home afterwards he might stop and have a cup of coffee at that dimly-lit little coffee shop that was open all night. No need to hurry home.
Funny old Miss Simmons. He should feel depressed, he told himself, but he didn’t. No one to love, no one to care about, no one to worry about.

(from Arena, No. 55, Autumn 1961)

Article © Mark Pirie, 2010

Bibliography of Eva Burfield:

Yellow Kowhai, Wright & Brown, London, 1957; reissued Ulverscroft, Leicester, 1987.
A Chair to Sit On, Wright & Brown, London, 1958; reissued Ulverscroft, Leicester, 1986.
The Long Winter, Wright & Brown, London, 1964; reissued Ulverscroft, Leicester, 1992.
After Midnight, Wright & Brown, London, 1965; reissued Ulverscroft, Leicester, 1988.
Out of Yesterday, Wright & Brown, London, 1965; reissued Ulverscroft, Leicester, 1987.
The White Prison, Wright & Brown, London, 1965; reissued Ulverscroft, Leicester, 1992.
The New Mrs. Rainer, Wright & Brown, London, 1967; reissued Ulverscroft, Leicester, 1992.
The Last Day of Summer, Wright & Brown, London, 1968; reissued Ulverscroft, Leicester, 1986.

Bibliography of Eva Ebbett:

Waipukurau School Centenary, Waipukerau School, 1967.

Bibliography of Eve Ebbett:

Give Them Swing Bands, Hale, London/Whitcombe & Tombs, Christchurch, 1969; reissued Ulverscroft, Leicester, 1996.
To the Garden Alone, Hale, London/Whitcombe & Tombs, Christchurch, 1970; reissued Ulverscroft, Leicester, 1997.
In True Colonial Fashion: A Lively Look At What New Zealanders Wore, Reed, Wellington, 1977.
Victoria’s Daughters: New Zealand Women of the Thirties, Reed, Wellington, 1981.
When The Boys Were Away: New Zealand Women in World War II, Reed, Wellington, 1984.