Dan Schneider’s Poetry: George Schneider Plays Handball 1933

God I Hate Dan Schneider, The Sequel

GEORGE SCHNEIDER PLAYS HANDBALL- 1933

There is no creation I do not feel.

My dad, at sixteen, on a handball court,
hunches to slap the hard rubbery sphere
against the wall. He is not smart enough
to know that he should be miserable.
This lousy place is a Brooklyn schoolyard,
and this time is a luck-forsaken year,
enjoyed by only those few who are tough
enough to forget the moment, but not
the moments, crannying between each crack,
of the black on fist, and those in concrete,
which can only grow. It is for these spots,
that the boys take their aim, that the ball seeks.

There is no feeling I do not create.

Let’s jump into this then.

There is no creation I do not feel.

A simple philosophic statement. Where will it lead?

My dad, at sixteen, on a handball court,
hunches to slap the hard rubbery sphere
against the wall. He is not smart enough
to know that he should be miserable.

Invoking memories from his poor family and poor youth, Dan describes his father slapping a ball against a wall for fun. This links to the previous statement because it calls to how he’s able to span the gulf of time by creating this fictional George with his poetry. But this note of empathy doesn’t shy away from Dan telling us about the cold reality – that George is ‘not smart enough to know that he should be miserable’ – which makes the hard rubbery sphere of the ball smacking against the wall seem like an object of metaphysical depth – George himself smacking to hardness against life, trying to scope a place in the world, is just one interpretation. It tells of the reality of many poor people who can’t transcend their station because they don’t know how, but might be destroyed if they gained some self-insight, and so are better off not knowing.

This lousy place is a Brooklyn schoolyard,
and this time is a luck-forsaken year,
enjoyed by only those few who are tough
enough to forget the moment, but not

This further sets up the setting of the poor American scene. It speaks of the toughness you need to get by, but also adds a caveat that such toughness comes with a ‘forgetting of the moment’. The ‘but not’ sets up something that will transcend this forgetfulness.

the moments, crannying between each crack,
of the black on fist, and those in concrete,
which can only grow. It is for these spots,
that the boys take their aim, that the ball seeks.

This brilliant turn of ‘moment’ into ‘moments’ talks about how those kids will be forgetful (of suffering, perhaps – the eternal ‘moment’ they’re stuck in) but they cherish the present-ness of ‘moments’ – like playing handball. The ‘crannying between each crack’ tells of how small and far apart these moments are. The ‘black on fist’ and ‘concrete’ acts as a rough descriptive tenor, but also indirectly states of the cracks formed by the roughness of life (and, if you want to stretch it, the neighbourhood in general – built in concrete).

But the next two lines develop that these spots will ‘grow’ – their life will slowly peter out, and yet these spots are what the ‘ball seeks’ – ephemeral moments of joy that scatters around their lives.

There is no feeling I do not create.

When I realized the true power of this, I was almost bowled over in my chair.

Imagine, for example, what you would read in the poem if the first and last lines were absent from the text. You’d read it as a pretty good poem describing the harsh reality of a life in poverty.

And yet, why does Dan put this ‘I’ and his own viewpoint into the poem?

Why does he so specifically draw upon his father’s ‘ignorance’ in the first two lines?

Why does he cut ‘the moments, crannying between each crack’ in a separate enjambment?

Why does he end on the image of the boys ‘aiming’ for these ‘moments and cracks’?

Suddenly, the entire poem deepens into a metaphysical scope, and Dan’s ability of perception. He can simply ‘see’ better than his parents, than the people in poverty he describes. It is these ‘moments’ that he ‘aims’ for. The ‘growth’ can be parallaxed with the cracks in concrete as well as the ‘growth’ of those moments in the poet’s ‘wreath of verse’ (to steal a phrase from his other poem, the amazing Poetry Itself, which contains – “an abstract of insight grown well within your wreath of verse”).

Well, some may say that may be a stretch – but that reading is simply a possibility. Dan, the cognitive poet, may have gotten it out of luck or chance – but he probably saw the ability for the reader to parallax these readings into the poem, and thus he kept it in anyway (since he says he goes through multiple days of editing sometimes). I don’t know whether he came up with the whole idea for this from the start, or whether it appeared to him like a poetic rose bloomed from luck – but it is there, and it is a fabulous application of poetic skill.

The lack of applause for this poetic skill is ridiculous. I myself shall applause – but I will also grit my teeth and scream – GOD I FUCKING HATE DAN SCHNEIDER

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