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Play Ball !
A Baseball Haiku Feature
by
Cor van den Heuvel


Cor van den Heuvel was known as Dutchy when he caught for the Comets, a sandlot team in Dover, New Hampshire, back in the late 1940s. He throws and bats right-handed. Playing alongside such legendary Comets as pitcher Lefty Allen and home-run hitter Bomb-Bomb Lewis, Dutchy helped lead his team to victory in many a memorable game, especially against the team’s arch-rival, the Somersworth Saints.

Cor discovered haiku in San Francisco in 1958 when he overheard Gary Snyder talking about short poems at a Sunday poetry gathering in North Beach. Back east in Maine the following spring, he began writing them himself and was soon reading them at the Cafe Zen, a Beat-style coffee house in Ogunquit. That fall, he moved to Boston to become the house poet at the Salamander Cafe. The summer of 1960 he worked on a fishing trawler out of Provincetown during the day and read his haiku in a bar at night. He then went to New York where he was involved with the poetry readings at the Tenth Street Coffee House and self-published his first chap-book of haiku, Sun in Skull (1961). The first edition of The Haiku Anthology, which he edited, was published by Doubleday in 1974.

Cor wrote his first baseball haiku around 1990 while writing the haibun series for A Boy’s Seasons (Modern Haiku 1993). Play Ball, a collection of his baseball haiku, was published by Red Moon Press in 1999. His haiku chap-books have received three Merit Book Awards from the Haiku Society of America. In 2002, he was given the Masaoka Shiki Award in Matsuyama for his contributions to international haiku. (Because Shiki loved baseball and wrote haiku about the game, the award included a medal decorated with a baseball and crossed baseball bats.)

In the photo, Cor is in the Yogi Berra Baseball Museum on the campus of Montclair State University in New Jersey on March 27, 2004. It shows him reaching into a special glass display case to hold the handle of Babe Ruth's bat. The gleam in Cor's eyes speaks for itself.

photo credit: Bruce Kennedy


Copyright © 1999 by Cor van den Heuvel, Published 1999 by Red Moon Press, Reprinted With Permission