Slips: Cricket Poems, Mark Pirie, HeadworX, 2021
Mark Pirie has been writing cricket poems for a number of years. He published a booklet of cricket poems in 2008 and has now gathered a whole book together. If you are a cricket fan like me, you will be drawn to a collection that celebrates a game that captivates in both its slowness (the tests) and its speed (the T20s), its intricacies, elegance and skill. The poems consider specific matches, offer odes or tributes to beloved players, sing the praises of a sweep, swinging ball or one-handed boundary catch. There is a reflective gaze back, as memory is trawled for standout moments. Remember when. Remember how. I found myself trawling though my own cricket memories and revisiting Vivian Richards at Lord’s, listening to cricket on the transistor radio as a child, watching Richard Hadlee take one wicket after another, Martin Crowe bat.
But the joy in reading these poems is how life infuses cricket and cricket infuses life. The delight is also in how playing cricket can be aligned to writing a poem. How you might go out for a duck but it is a love of playing/ writing that matters. I read this book for the pleasure of cricket, the pleasure of poetry, and a myriad reactions animating the bridge between the one and the other.
Driving back from a book fair
whites on a green field
remind me of a love now lost.
It’s a while since I played.
I long for that Saturday field,
can smell the whiff of leather,
the feel of stitch and seam.
At the fair I’d looked at old
cricket books. They all knew.
And when I arrive home, my bat
lies in the corner propped against
the dresser, hidden by shadow.
Mark Pirie was born in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1974. He is the Managing Editor for HeadworX, a small press publisher of poetry/fiction. His poems have been published in India, New Zealand, Australia, Croatia, the US, Canada, Singapore, Iraq, France, Germany, and the UK. In 1998 University of Otago Press published his anthology of ‘Generation X’ New Zealand writing, The NeXt Wave. He was managing editor of, and co-edited, JAAM literary journal (New Zealand) from 1995-2005, and currently edits broadsheet: new new zealand poetry. In 2003, Salt Publishing, Cambridge, England, published his new and selected poems, Gallery: A Selection. In 2016, a new selection of his poems Rock and Roll appeared from Bareknuckle Books in Australia.