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SEED WHEEL
APRICOTS OF DONBAS
Masquerade
ECCENTRIC DAYS OF HOPE AND SORROW
The Baseball Field at Night  
|
  Patricia Goedicke

ISBN 978-0-9762114-9-5     $16.95  /  $19.95 (Canada)     6 x 8       

96 pp      
PUB DATE: Spring 2008       Poetry





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Everything Patricia Goedicke looks at sharpens for me and becomes hopeful. She is a believer in our connectedness to the things of this world and to each other.

—Maxine Kumin
 

Goedicke has been compared to Whitman in her use of the extended line, and because she seeks to bring the entire world into the poems. The profound feel for rhythm, swing, and modulation of the human voice is astonishing and makes Goedicke’s poetry a great physical pleasure to read.

—New Letters

About the Author

Patricia Goedicke

Patricia Goedicke was the author of 12 books of poetry, one of which, As Earth Begins to End, was recognized by the American Library Association as one of the top ten poetry books of the year 2000. As Earth Begins to End was both her tribute to her husband, Leonard Robinson, and a searching, anguished meditation on diminution and death and what might outlast them. “Her theme here is old and enduring love, the gnawed-at bond between longtime mates that survives epic quarrels and the creeping assault of age, and embodies a transcendent eroticism,” wrote reviewer Donna Seaman in Booklist.

Her first poetry collection, Between Oceans, was published in 1968. “An unusual and startlingly original lyrical talent and much emotional force distinguish these poems,” wrote Publishers Weekly. “A remarkable first volume of poetry.” During her career, Ms. Goedicke received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship, and won the William Carlos Williams Prize for Poetry from New Letters magazine. She taught in the creative writing program at the University of Montana for 25 years. She was a profoundly engaged and insightful teacher of poetry, and has former students in all parts of the country who count her as a pivotal influence on their work and their lives. A Patricia Goedicke Scholarship Fund has been established in her honor at the University of Montana. Patricia Goedicke died of lung cancer in 2006. Even as her body became fragile and besieged, she remained utterly invested in being alive. Among the hundreds of notes, quotations, random written thoughts, plans and descriptions in her files was this note to anyone “who might get drowned in the sludge of my psychic and physical pains. Please be sure to speak of my utter joy—inexpressible—but experienced . . . walking barefoot over the grass around the house looking up at the stars and talking to the in-and-out cats in the shadows.” Before her death, Patricia completed this, her thirteenth collection of poems, The Baseball Field at Night.

Awards

 
Independent Publisher Book Award Winner: 2009 First Place Award for Poetry
Finalist: High Plains Book Awards for Poetry 2009
 

Reviews

The Baseball Field at Night, last poems by Patricia Goedicke
by Ron Slate
Lost Horse Press (February 2008)

When I finally met Patricia Goedicke in 1982, after several years of correspondence, she had already been dealing with breast cancer for five years. She was exactly one year and a day younger than my mother, and there she sat at a table in a Cambridge restaurant, provoking and teasing, wanting to know everything, praising, laughing, a little flirty. Her mother had died of breast cancer twelve years earlier; her father had lung cancer and multiple sclerosis. In her poetry, beginning with Between Oceans (Harcourt, 1968) and continuing through twelve books, her fixation on frailty was both an ambush and an embrace. The sheer physicality of her materials, the bodily presences, inspire summaries of her work that catalog her carnal subjects and emotional extremes. When Patricia died in 2006 of cancer, the obituaries noted how her poems dealt with her illnesses, the love of her husband, and the reality of death.

In Buddhism, there is a bodhisattva, or enlightened soul, named Kuan Yin. She has incarnated many times and, if she wished, could graduate from the cycles of living and dying. But she elects to remain, to aid and comfort. In Chinese her name means “the one who perceives the sound of suffering.” Such a character continues to thrive not only despite the evidence, but because of it. This is how I think of Patricia. Kuan Yin is often depicted sitting alone beside a steam or waterfall, profiled by the moon, a willow twig in one hand and a jug of water in the other. But Patricia was a figure in motion—or rather, the voice spoke from the middle of events. She narrated the struggles and pleasures with an unabated intensity. She was more attuned to pitch than tone. Her language was precise and her ambition consistent, but she was careful not to be too careful. She gave herself whatever space was required to escape confinement.

Patricia dedicated her fourth book, The Dog That Was Barking Yesterday (Lynx House Press, 1979), to her husband Leonard Robinson, “who first warned me about it: ‘The Central Glamour.’” But it was her impulse to probe what had been flagged as dangerous. Sensing the allure of the enclosing inner life, she made it her subject rather than her conveyance and posture—yet one heard echoes of the excesses of a compensating private life in the language and pacing. In a letter to me from 1979, she described “the psychological stimulus for my writing, namely the ‘desperate’ need—in a situation where my mother was deaf and my father, a Freudian psychiatrist, saw the world in the most reductive, scientifically didactic and flat way possible—not only to ‘communicate,’ to be heard, but to communicate in the deepest, richest, and most unscientifically moving way I could.” At that time, her poems hovered over the very traps and blandishments of self-centeredness. Then, the mode of address began to evolve a more direct, less stylized sound.

Spanning forty years, the arc of her work has moved from statement to utterance. In 1985 Copper Canyon Press published her seventh book, The Wind of Our Going. It is a stunning collection, filled with big breaths taken in for a voice speaking in a world where it’s hard to be heard.

WHAT RUSHES BY US

On the falling elevator trapped as the sixty-one floors blink
Like eyes in sequence, each possible resting place whipping by

Faster and faster, one after the other, Hello
Goodbye, my friends, yesterday we were talking, today we die

In our sleep, with the stars falling, surely it is the stars
In waterfalls of sparks, ribbons of light descending

With tennis racquets, Bibles, cars, violets, young men wearing hats
Ski lifts in winter, The New York Times, the Funnies,

All the intense conversations that will never end,
Your photograph on my wall, mine tucked in your billfold,

Do you know what you look like? Not now you don’t,
Maybe one second ago you did, but the bits and pieces of yesterday

Are piling up, pushing (some even going on ahead),
There’s Mother, there’s Father, there’s Edward from the first grade

And Beethoven’s Ninth, and the Bach B Minor, each chord
Turns into a glissando, clusters of fireworks flying

With curses, cats wailing, the whine of the big guns
And desperate bombs going off, the little pot bellies

Of starved children, presidents, old beggars, vice-presidents,
Every newspaper headline, every last quarrel

We ever had, each hangover, each miraculous glass
Of the deep bourbon of love, even the pure silence of prayer

Is pouring past us like rain, like a blizzard of hard rice
Sliding by, sliding by, polished smooth as the ground

Each of us thinks he is standing on, certainly I do
Content, watching the world go by but suddenly

The bottom drops out, the stomach crazily catapults
Past the toes, the feet, the head follows, mountains

Exchange places with the back yard, even your face
Revolves in the sky, it’s the Big Dipper, upside down

The wind roars in our ears, in the dizzy whirl of the blood
There’s no turning back, on parallel tracks shooting

From the cliff of our birth we keep falling,
First you, then me, then me rushing by you.

In another poem, “The Interior Music,” she described the body as “that vague switchboard / talking to itself,” and the inner music as “the complicated gold harp strings / of the mind.” The poem is a celebration of both the vagaries and the pure pluckings. This takes us to Patricia’s native stance: poised between the exciting interior and the world crashing at her feet. Her position was exquisite because it was entirely provisional, more and more like the turbulent world. The voice could sound demotic and hieratic in the same poem, applying a strange specificity to an entire world, projecting the violence of a world toward the reader. At other times, she could be unpredictably satisfied with simple description, mere image, and the powerful presence would retract.

We now have Patricia’s last poems in hand with the arrival of The Baseball Field at Night. Christopher Howell, who edited the collection, says in his introduction, “Hers is a poetry of ‘dis-equilibrium,’ in the sense the poet Robert Duncan speaks of it, as that which all living organisms strive to maintain. Evading equilibrium one evades death.” These final, harrowing poems are desperate, wild, reaching beyond wisdom back into the body. This is the work of a poet who wanted to make everything human accessible to language; her long impulse was of generosity, and thus, a successful evasion of that “central glamour,” even as she devised a thoroughly vibrant new presence to pull off the essential outbound vectors of recognition.

HOLE

For if this be corpse

or grave. If this be tooth or cavity
or dry lake bed. Or spewed

self pity or howl, no tongue left
to speak with. If there be the same

killing fields from the start:
the gallows in the playpen

glares up at us like a black
graffiti covered

stone the day after

the execution. Birds like heavy cigars, coffins
wheeling overhead.

If there be cracked eggshell
and no egg. Neither yolk nor white

If there be no kernel. No core
to the applehead. If there be love

when love is dead.

If the outer firmament be arched
skin only. If the noose embrace nothing

but cold ore and bowels,

where is the high famed convexity
of which this is the concave?

For this is not a private. Not a personal
crack in a sealed container.

Not a single

lost shoe: on the nation’s highways the owner
is long gone.

But whether this be outer
or inner rot, murderous

aimed or innocent kick, here
is an end to it, a hollow
depression which has no bottom

and no top.

She must have known how rich and startling these poems are—of course, she was always making a spectacle of herself as her parents might have complained. But she learned how to do it with the artist’s deepest commitment to the material and the audience. Finally, there was even the self-portrait as gift, a deeply moving comedy, in “Vegetable 69”: “without makeup losing it / even my clown red / lipstick // line drawn against encroaching / wrinkles from nose to chin // seriously I can’t quite / see / sallow gray dishrag me // potato-eyed in the dark / soft-hearted smart / just feeling around.”

Patricia Goedicke’s work and career offer much instruction and inspiration. Her approach and voice were unique. Over time they became more and more like themselves, freer to “feel around.” Thus, she developed, but not for development’s sake. Like any highly accomplished poet, her affectations were entirely her own. She always addressed what was central to her attention, the language charged with the moment of her peering. Her final poems, spoken by someone regarding her own dying with a grim amazement, were cultivated by years of recognizing an enduring condition, the presence of death in motion or abeyance, the sound of suffering. Recognition, the poems say, is an action. The poems would do more than reflect that condition; they would enact. “Nobody wants to cross an absolutely empty / baseball field at midnight”—yet we follow her there, willingly, if with more caution. Even in the end, she entertained and enlightened us, with a steady, unflinching energy, a surpassing glamour, and love.

 

Stone's Throw Magazine, Montana
Review: The Baseball Field at Night
by Alison Colgan

The last poems of Patricia Goedicke, completed before her death in 2006, will only further her reputation as a poet full of life, emotion and energy. The Baseball Field at Night,—her thirteenth collection—published by Lost Horse Press (2009), demonstrates her devotion to craft and the emotional quick-wittedness that define her work.

Many of the poems in The Baseball Field at Night can be considered self-portraits; indeed, readers can be sure that the "speaker in the poem" is not a voice in space, but Goedicke herself, and we come to understand both the certainty of her voice as she guides us through her poems, and also what set these poems in motion. She speaks of her late husband Leonard Robinson often and with intense love: her remembrance of their life together seems never to be in memoriam, but as if he is still very much present, and waiting just off the page. In "Moon Song" she concludes "I've no idea what's coming or how or / when / only that if it has two sides at least / one of them must be you." Intriguingly, Goedicke also creates places for us to imagine where the dead reside, as in "Unicycles of the Dead:"

whether we notice them or not, they keep tapping:
behind the eyes whispering, each night and not just in the movies
a series of serious men and grave women in top hats
on skinny unicycles wobbles across the sky and disappears

over and over, for the world's windows are transparent

Goedicke finishes the poem with these lines:

even after they move on they remain

in pieces all over the house. In bureau drawers,
in desks. On the back stairs, especially in the glassy
whirlpool depths of mirrors
continually changing places, out there
on the dark grid of the lawn.

But if the poems in this collection can be thought of as revealing and personal, so too can they be thought of as reaching outside the realm of the poet's mind, a testament to Goedicke's dexterity of thought. She surveys the world with a keen eye, never wearily. In her poem "Cloud Chamber and Circumference," she writes,

at the slightest movement
from the picture window noticing each leaf, taking in
each student on the sidewalk jostling by,

in the wide cloud chamber of your mind scanning for every least
skeletal spirit-shape of feeling

electric in the air around you as lightening,
as dazzled corposant patches, short circuiting

but still flashing

Most poems are rich with movement. Some poems gain momentum as they cascade, fall, project or jet down the page. Goedicke examines and explores her subjects with the perspective that they are active, working, alive. In "Cloud Chamber and Circumference" the start of new day isn't simply a subject for comment, it's in motion. She writes,

Each morning now the sky opens
silent, neutral
without you

yawns. Stretches its mouth wide
as a gray cat.

In "Moon Song" the moon "was sneaking around / playing tricks / all over the house." Even about sleep, she writes "the body wakes to itself/ as to an ocean, the soft wash of it" in the poem, "The Question on the Floor." The end results of all these images that pound, tremble, balloon, scatter, crackle, heave, scissor and spider (to use Goedicke's words) is surprising and never anticipated. At times readers may feel they are being led into a confusing clutter of activity (or shot into space, as in "The Blow"), yet Goedicke always skillfully grounds the poem in the concrete heart of her ideas, pulling us back to the people, places and objects that fascinate her. The Baseball Field at Night leaves readers feeling fully engaged. Not often enough are we given a collection of poems that feel as if they were written for us to take part in, whether it’s the way our eyes dash down the page or the way we are invited into her world. As Sam Hamill writes, "She is a poet without pretension or outward ambition, able to engage rhythms and harmonies that illuminated and bound together the practices of a lifetime of generosity of spirit. Her poetry remains a sustaining gift to us all." To know Patricia Goedicke's work is to know it's possible to speak to (not about, not at) the reader, and for this, her last poems are truly rewarding.

 

Review by Bernard Quetchenbach
The Billings Gazette: August 23, 2009
The Baseball Field at Night (Lost Horse Press, 2008)

In the introduction to Patricia Goedicke's The Baseball Field at Night, fellow poet Melissa Kwasny points to the awareness of death as a hallmark of Goedicke's poetry.

Fittingly, in this collection of "Last Poems" by one of Montana's best-known poets, the end of life—coupled with the enduring memory of the departed—forms a central theme of the book.

The conflict between loss and uncanny persistence in memory informs poem after poem in the collection. Many poems are addressed to a "you," perhaps the poet's late husband to whom the collection is dedicated, but perhaps also the poet's own declining body, the nature of our corporeal existence itself, all that is passing without being quite understood.

In "Kalo Taxidi, Fuera y Maintenant," she reaches into different languages to attempt to come to terms with "the spirit slipping away among high / teetering white sheets."

The next poem, "Traces," begins with a concise statement of the human situation in which "We live on the cusp of knowing."

Life and death constitute only one of the dialectic pairings of connection and separation—body and spirit, matter and energy, knowable and ineffable, ephemeral and enduring—that fuel these occasionally difficult lyrics. The title poem offers the baseball field as one of many focal points with "bristling / spheres flying / back and forth here / and not here."

Goedicke finds in the concepts of particle physics a source of empathy for all held in the fragmentary suspension of human perception, the nature of which, as Heisenberg discovered, precludes wholeness.

But, if nothing can be fully apprehended, nothing is ever quite eliminated either, since "each life's leavings / call, imprinted deep / in stem and marrow dreaming," as she concludes in "Kayak."

The poet's approach to the fundamental questions of existence is both scientific and metaphysical, the imagery laying solid groundwork for philosophical speculations. Ideas, even images and phrases, echo throughout the poems, and allusions to the work of other poets—Wallace Stevens, Allen Ginsberg—add to the impression that words and perceptions are never really lost.

Daring yet careful, The Baseball Field at Night is the worthy final statement of a mature artist.

Though its central questions remain unresolved, as they must, the book reaches a kind of equilibrium in the midst of uncertainty.

The final poem, "Heliopause in His Study Now Her Bedroom," ends with "all lights go out / and on and on," a paradox echoed by the concluding epigraph taken from an anonymous Japanese haiku-writer whose cricket "chirps, chirps, chirps / and is still."

Reviewer Bernie Quetchenbach is a professor of English at Montana State University Billings.

 

from The Idaho Librarian, Vol 59, No 2 (2009)
Reviewed by Spencer Jardine

The title of Patricia Goedicke’s book of poems refers to one of those places in our society that may simultaneously have a mysterious, sacred, and even frightening hold on our imaginations. Indeed, this is the tone of Goedicke’s final book of poetry as she treats the poet’s classical repertoire with intense intimacy, namely death, love, nature, and the body. The book transports the reader to intimate moments in time and space, one of which is a deserted baseball field in the middle of the night.

Melissa Kwasny’s introduction to the book provides a warm portrait of Goedicke that offers a personal context for many of the poems in the book. For instance, Goedicke grew up with a father who was a professor of neurology, a fact that explains Goedicke’s frequent references to the nervous system. Additionally, Goedicke lost her mother to breast cancer, her father to lung cancer and multiple sclerosis, and her husband to senility, so it is not surprising that many poems touch on the poignant longings for a lost loved one. Personally, Goedicke fought breast cancer for much of her life and passed away due to complications on July 4, 2006, at age 75.

Superficiality and facetiousness find no place in this vivid book of poetic images. Goedicke follows in the tradition of Walt Whitman, singing to the rhythms of life, highlighting common images in a refreshing way. From her poem, “Trace”:

Nor is it possible to find anyone out there
or even in here, but hidden
in minds
like fish in weedy tanks, in haircuts less and less
brilliantined, in scuffed sandals abandoned (85)

Another excerpt from “This Music Has Holes in It”:

none with any voice but the rockplops into the pool
pool guzzles it delicious low throated gurgle

what does the air feel above it
child skips a stone into the water
it’s gone (28)

Touchingly, Goedicke focuses on the marvels of life and loved ones more than on the evanescent honors of the world. Yet she finds that even special moments and loved ones disappear beyond our reach, as in her poem “Sooner Speak to the Moon”:

O Stars, O Atoms, tremble, O You
Of the so many you’s in You, how dare
A single I even on your arm dream
Of entering such an impossible pas de deux (40)

As is typical of the best poetry, Goedicke’s work yields greater insight with deeper reading. This book of poetry may appeal more to those experienced with life and the pain of losing a loved one than to the youthful caught up in the popular mainstream scene. Generally speaking, those who take the time to read intensively (each poem multiple times), will take more away from this book of poetry than those who casually take a dip.

During her 38-year career as a poet Goedicke published twelve books of poetry and received a variety of awards for her work. The New York Times selected her 1990 book The Tongues We Speak as a Notable Book, and the American Library Association placed When Earth Begins to End among the top ten books of poetry published in the year 2000. From 1982 until her death she taught at the University of Montana, earning many awards and honors along the way, including a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Residency in Bellagio, Italy, the H.G. Merriam Award (given to those who make significant literary contributions in the state of Montana), and the William Carlos Williams Prize.

Reviewed by Spencer Jardine, Coordinator of Instruction, Eli M. Oboler Library, Idaho State University.