Happy ‘pub’ days: Baker, Helms, Irish
Helping close one year and open another, three faculty members in the ASU Department of English announce the recent publication of new books, including a baseball film monograph and two collections of poetry.
The Baseball Film: A Cultural and Transmedia History (Rutgers University Press, 2022)
Baseball has long been viewed as the Great American Pastime, so it is no surprise that the sport has inspired many Hollywood films and television series. But how do these works depict the game, its players, fans, and place in American society?
This study offers an extensive look at nearly one hundred years of baseball-themed movies, documentaries, and TV shows. Film and sports scholar Aaron Baker examines works like A League of their Own (1992) and Sugar (2008), which dramatize the underrepresented contributions of female and immigrant players, alongside classic baseball movies like The Natural that are full of nostalgia for a time when native-born white men could use the game to achieve the American dream. He further explores how biopics have both mythologized and demystified such legendary figures as Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson and Fernando Valenzuela.
The Baseball Film charts the variety of ways that Hollywood presents the game as integral to American life, whether showing little league as a site of parent-child bonding or depicting fans’ lifelong love affairs with their home teams. Covering everything from Bull Durham (1988) to The Bad News Bears (1976), this book offers an essential look at one of the most cinematic of all sports.
Baker is a professor in film and media studies in the Department of English at ASU.
I Cry Love! Love! Love!: Poems (Kelsay Books, 2021)
Drawing its title from William Blake’s hymn of praise to sexual love (Visions of the Daughters of Albion), this little book inscribes the word “love” in 22 of its 33 poems. They celebrate delights of being in a body. But not just sex—love of God, of friends, parents, children, pets, poems, even food, all are savored. I am struck, as well, by this poet’s range of thought, feeling, and allusion: Li Po to Garcia Lorca, May Swenson, Mary Oliver and Richard Dawkins, to Blake, the Bible, and Shakespeare (in the delightful ballad “If Will Hath a Will, Anne Hathaway”). Most of all, I am haunted by the opening piece, words of love aborted mid-sentence by death.
Helms has a way of making complex ideas accessible. His poems enhance and deepen our intellectual as well as sensual pleasures. Read them slowly (“mouth these verses, mumble them, suck their juice,” he suggests); they will enrich you.
Helms is professor emeritus of English at ASU.
Tooth Box (Spuyten Duyvil, 2021)
Tooth Box tells of a girlhood familiar to many—a girlhood of strange cruelties and the ever-present threat of violence. Irish writes with a mesmerizing attention to detail and a gift for the startling and uncanny. The girl in these sensuous poems wanders through a dark fairytale-esque world, alert to being taken, cut, punctured, and eaten: "to expect care from no one." It's one of the few poetry books I've read that accurately captures the tender, but brutal relationships between girls. Written with a fluid, dreamlike beauty, it is "a story built from the sticks and bleached and brittle bones of a truth...about girls who...become animals to save themselves."
Irish is assistant professor of English in creative writing at ASU.