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Baseball Haiku

Theo Goodwin is a haikuist who became intrigued by the art after traveling to Japan. He is a retired attorney who enjoys playing classical guitar and exploring nature near his home in Sacramento.

April is the month every year when professional baseball competition resumes in the United States.

Baseball began as a sport with formal rules of play and field requirements in 1865 when a group of men founded the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club. The founder, Alexander Cartwright, was a volunteer firefighter and bank clerk. The game was played between two amateur teams outside. The rest is history.

Baseball is a very democratic sport. It can be played in a backyard, the street, a baseball diamond, or in a stadium. It is played by young and old. It is easy to learn and easy to watch but hard to master.

The baseball season has begun in 2022 and many spectators are already fixated on this formal sport that some decry as too slow. That is a blessing: it leaves time for contemplation during the game. It leaves time to compose haiku poems in one's head while waiting and watching.

The key to baseball haiku is that this sport is played outside. The outdoor elements become part of the game. The players are exposed to sun, light, shade, darkness, rain, wind, cold and hot air. In 1872, Horace Wilson, an American teaching at what is now Tokyo University introduced baseball to Japan. It became a popular game, gradually spreading to the entire county. Japanese haikuists wrote poetry to appreciate and to enjoy the game on a mental and sensual level.

Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) was Japan's fourth most important haiku poet. He took haiku's focus away from the subtle settings of nature and focused instead on social interaction. As a college student he became an enthusiastic baseball player. His writings about baseball helped spread its popularity.

Only nine of Shiki's many baseball haiku, written with a brush, remain today. Here are a few, focusing on the sensual, tactile pleasure:

spring breeze
this grassy field makes me
want to play catch.

the baseball rolled
through them.



Kawahigashi Hekigoto (1873-1937) wrote as a youth:

while playing ball
it becomes time to go home
for supper.

Yamaguchi Seishi (1901-1994) wrote in 1960 at his first night game:

watching a night game
the ordinary ground of night turns
into enchanted ground.

Akimoto Fujio (1901-1977) refocused on nature and wrote:

in the far sky
the lights of a night game
a turtle drying off.

Suzuki Murio (1919-2004) returned to the human focus by referring to Japanese children who lost their parents during World War II:

my legs are chilly
I stand watching the orphans
play baseball.

Ed Markowski (1954), an American haikuist, wrote:

winter reverie
the faint scent of bubblegum
on an old baseball card.

Michael Ketchek (1954) wrote of a common experience:

struck out
the long walk home
in the dusk.

Mathew V. Spano (1967) wrote of a common feeling at the end of a game:

the dark stadium
moths and fans disperse
into the night.

A haiku that I crafted:

home team behind
batter slams ball off bat, high,
wind, blow this ball far.

There are dozens of lovely haiku written about baseball by many Japanese and American writers in Baseball Haiku edited and translated by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura. May these haikus help you enjoy the long baseball season.

~ Theo Goodwin




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