Thursday, June 9, 2011

Takahe review of A Tingling Catch

The following review of A Tingling Catch has just appeared in the latest issue of Takahe literary magazine, Christchurch, New Zealand, No. 72 (2011), page 70.


Review of A Tingling Catch: A Century of NZ Cricket Poems 1864-2009, edited by Mark Pirie, Wellington: HeadworX, 190 pp. NZ $34.99. ISBN: 978-0-473-16872-8.

The respected West Indian historian and cultural critic C L R James, regarded cricket as 'first and foremost a dramatic spectacle' that should be considered in the same league as opera, ballet, theatre and dance. However, the eclectic range of cricket poems in Mark Pirie's A Tingling Catch is not just limited to verse which ennobles and reveres the game, it also chucks in tonally diverse deliveries from the personal, ironic, fervent and the trite.
Like a seemingly simple but deceptively clever Warnie 'flipper', Brian Turner's four liner, 'Cricket', won the toss to open the collection. Succinctly referencing complexity of opinion from casual observation or dripping in accumulated cricket cultural capital he offers reassurance that anyone can comment on the game and "be right sooner or later."
For those whose sound track of the Kiwi summer was punctuated by the static whistles, cadence and vocabulary of a shortwave broadcast and now the modern commentary of the televised game, this is an appealing mélange of voices gathered from those who played, watched or just listened to the game.
The breadth of the collection reflects the changing cultural resonance from Thomas Bracken's 'Bush Children' linking boys playing the game with the need for nation building through to Tony Beyer's boyhood memory of nearly losing his front teeth by misreading a rising ball. Pirie's own voice usefully signposts the collection, his footnotes economically providing context and subtext to some of the more historically located work.
The vocal jostle is, of course, mainly that of the male voice, perhaps a subtle reflection of the failure historically for women's critical observation of the game to have credence and the women's game to claim regard. As one of the few female voices in here, Elizabeth Smither speaks for the generations of mothers and wives who have done the long hours on the boundary. They know how to launder a bowler's whites and can astutely "pick a spinner".
But counter to Turner's opening assertion, they also know the unspoken rule that "no woman will ever commentate" and that their cricket savvy should be kept to themselves. If Smither is right then perhaps I shouldn't have written this review!

Contributors include: Don Neely. John Clarke (aka Fred Dagg), Whim Wham, Samuel Butler (England), Sir A P Herbert (England), Denis Glover, Harry Ricketts, Brian Turner, G P Williams, Jim Tocker, David Mitchell, Mark Pirie, Tony Beyer, John Dickson, Pat Wilson, Michael O'Leary, Murray Edmond, Tim Jones, J H E Schroder, James Brown, Bill Direen, Geoff Cochrane, Peter Olds, Richard Langston, Anne French, Rob Jackaman, Harvey McQueen,William Pember Reeves, Arnold Wall, David McKee Wright, Robin McConnell, Scott Kendrick, Elizabeth Smither, Alan Roddick, Robert J Pope, Amy Brown, Sarah Jane Barnett, Jack Perkins, Nick Whittock (Australia) and more.

Margaret Henley is a lecturer in Media Sport and New Zealand Sports Broadcasting, Department of Film, TV and Media Studies at the University of Auckland.

Review © Margaret Henley 2011