Stickball On 88th Street by Willis Barnstone
Comic, tragic, colorful, and adventurous, Stickball on 88th Street is a sequence of thirty-four narrative poems that follows its speaker from boyhood to college. It’s a memory book, bound with vignettes of school, family life, and the streets of New York City, as well as Maine and Mexico, culminating with a swan dive in Colorado. It reads like a novel or memoir, with characters, setting, and plot.
Stickball employs an original form, neither free verse nor traditionally formal, but rather lexical. Instead of meter and syllable counts, the book uses individual words as its units of measure. Each quatrain has twenty words: six each in the first two lines, four each in the last two lines. This form imposes no ponderous regularity, allowing for a swift narrative flow. It was written over the course of thirteen days in August, 1977, and has remained unchanged since then.