Click Image to Visit the Pecan Grove Press Web Page for Poetry from Paradise Valley


Poetry From Paradise Valley

Pecan Grove Press has released an anthology of poems, a sampling of works published in Valparaiso Poetry Review during its first decade, from the original 1999-2000 volume to the 2009-2010 volume.

Poetry from Paradise Valley includes a stellar roster of 50 poets. Among the contributors are a former Poet Laureate of the United States, a winner of the Griffin International Prize, two Pulitzer Prize winners, two National Book Award winners, two National Book Critics Circle winners, six finalists for the National Book Award, four finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award, two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, and a few dozen recipients of other honors, such as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, etc.

Readers are encouraged to visit the Poetry from Paradise Valley page at the publisher's web site, where ordering information about the book can be found.

Best Books of Indiana 2011: Finalist. Judges' Citation: "Poetry from Paradise Valley is an excellent anthology that features world-class poetry, including the work of many artists from the Midwest, such as Jared Carter, Annie Finch, David Baker, and Allison Joseph. It’s an eclectic and always interesting collection where poems on similar themes flow into each other. It showcases the highest caliber of U. S. poetry."
—Indiana Center for the Book, Indiana State Library

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Departure of PARNASSUS

When the first issue (Fall/Winter 1972) of Parnassus: Poetry in Review was published, I was an undergraduate just deciding to switch my major from chemistry to English so that I could begin to gain a background of knowledge that would help me develop as a reader of poetry and as a writer. At that time I already found myself disheartened by much of what I encountered that passed for academic commentary on contemporary poetry. To my thinking, so much of the theoretical criticism seemed lifeless and disengaged, and very little of it offered observations from a poet’s point of view, the way essays by T.S. Eliot or Randall Jarrell had done.

On the other hand, book reviews of poetry in magazines or newspapers, when they appeared and even extended more than a paragraph in length, frequently seemed to lack substance or treated poetry mostly in a superficial manner. For many magazines, including a number of literary journals, reviews of new poetry books appeared at most to be an afterthought—something brief and tucked into the last few pages of an issue. Newspapers usually included reviews of poetry only if the author already had achieved a measure of fame for winning major literary awards or a celebrity had authored the collection.

Fortunately, the timing of my apprenticeship as a poet and critic coincided with the appearance of the aptly titled Parnassus, published and edited by Herbert Leibowitz. The first issue contained commentary and criticism by an array of interesting voices (among them: Helen Vendler on Frank O’Hara; Michael Wood on Borges, Neruda, and Vallejo; Donald Sutherland on Valery and St. John Perse; John Koethe on Ashbery), and like many poets or other readers of poetry, I found myself anticipating each subsequent release of this unique journal, even when at times its publication schedule seemed a bit irregular.

Indeed, over the years Parnassus has amply demonstrated that thoughtful and comprehensive critical essays on poetry can be serious, yet can occur in an enjoyably readable fashion, perhaps appealing to a little wider audience than academic analysis penned in a dry and difficult idiom might reach. The journal practically provided an ongoing conversation about contemporary poetry. Today, more than three decades since its initial issue, readers and writers of poetry owe a great debt to Leibowitz for the standards he set as an editor and for the encouragement his publication subtly supplied those who desired to write different types of critical commentary on poetry.

Therefore, I find myself saddened by news included within the latest issue (July/August 2007) of Poets & Writers Magazine regarding the closing of Parnassus as an ongoing journal, with its final issue due in September. As Leibowitz explains his decision to end the publication of Parnassus: “Funding has become an insuperable obstacle. I love editing, but the good fairies did not give me any entrepreneurial gifts at birth.”

Characteristically, the journal’s last volume will be substantial and singular, a six-hundred page special issue focusing on international poetry, a subject about which Leibowitz has insisted it is important for American poets to become better read. “With globalization, American poets are much more aware, or should be, of an inventive Iraqi, a French or Senegalese poet, or a bard in Ecuador,” he suggests in the Poets & Writers interview with him. Indeed, one of the considerable contributions Parnassus has made during its tenure has been an emphasis on diversity of voices and styles of writing. As Leibowitz reports: “When I first started Parnassus thirty years ago, there were not many books of poems by women or minorities published. All of this changed for the good.”

Much has been made in recent weeks and months, and rightfully so, about the danger to social understanding by downsizing or eventual elimination of book reviews in some major newspapers. However, the issue hasn’t troubled me quite as much since book reviews in the major newspapers often focus on mass-market releases about current fads in popular culture or biographies of entertainment personalities, and usually even more substantive commentary on serious fiction or the rare review of a poetry volume still seems weak and insufficient. I’m honestly not sure how much will be lost, especially with the blossoming of critical writings on a variety of writers’ blogs, or extended essays becoming more commonplace and available extensively in Internet publications.

Likewise, one could credibly claim the gap created by the absence of Parnassus is already beginning to be filled in a number of personal blogs, such as Reginald Shepherd’s blog, or online publications, like the Contemporary Poetry Review, just to mention a couple among many that come to mind. Nevertheless, the loss of Parnassus is regrettable, and I believe it represents a significant transition, one that presents a challenging opportunity and an increased sense of obligation for web writers composing criticism or commentary about contemporary poetry.

For now, I commend Herbert Lebowitz on his many years of service to the poetry community, and I recommend that readers visit the Parnassus web page for full information about its upcoming issue on international poetry—which the site describes as containing a symposium on translation and numerous essays on international writers, as well as new poems by emerging poets from Brazil, China, Croatia, Cuba, The Czech Republic, Ireland, Israel, Poland, Russia, plus monologues by women poet-playwrights from Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Also, while there, I suggest browsing the journal’s archives for past issues, some of which may yet be available.

1 comment:

Thinker said...

I have always wondered about where the contemporary poetry reviews are. Names like T.S.Eliot don't seem to exist any more. At least we are unaware of them.

Thank you for the valuable links.