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

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Figuring the Numbers: Poetry, Gender, and VPR

During the last week a few posts at the Poetry Foundation’s blog, “Harriet,” named for the female founder of Poetry, have engendered (pun intended) lively discussion and an increased activity that has reached to other blogs as well. The original commentaries reference articles appearing in the current issue of Chicago Review that examine proportional representation of males and females among the poets included in leading mainstream literary journals or more experimental magazines. The numbers suggest to some that a continuing bias against female poets may exist in most of these publications. Other commentators offer possible alternative reasons for a disparity in the numbers.

I have enjoyed reading the various opinions on this issue shared by the Poetry Foundation bloggers and others. I commend those engaged in the conversation, and I find the comments enlightening; although, quite frankly I have not reached a conclusion of my own. In fact, as much as this topic has initiated interesting discussion, I am not fully convinced of how critical the more recent figures compiled in this issue may be. Looking at the statistical evidence presented by one of the tables printed in an article titled “Poetry Magazines & Women Poets,” I see numbers that are curious and raise legitimate questions, though do not appear overly disturbing.

For instance, the 2005 ratio of female representation by poets in the following journals does not seem too much out of line: Conjunctions, 45%; Fence, 48%; Paris Review, 41%; Poetry, 40%; Southern Review, 48%; and Tri-Quarterly, 53%. The 2005 numbers for a few journals, like Chicago Review (37%), The Nation (30%), New American Writing (39%), and The New Yorker (34%), are lower but could be considered only a snapshot—The Nation’s previous yearly statistic in the table is 43%—or could be explained by additional factors. As an example, perhaps many poets who appear in The New Yorker are those considered more established, a pool of poets disproportionately populated by male authors from an older generation, a time when bias clearly created a gender imbalance among those writers finding publication. Also, one must remember that some of these journals have female editors who would be less likely to engage in bias against women in their decision-making process.

In any case, discussion of this issue should continue. The conversation already has been beneficial, causing me to look at the numbers for Valparaiso Poetry Review and to figure the breakdown of contributors by gender, something I’d never done before. In the nine years of VPR, no work has ever been accepted because of a poet’s gender, nor has rejection of any piece been influenced by the author’s gender. The same could be said for other categories, such as race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or geographical location.

Indeed, usually these characteristics could not be known during the consideration of submissions for publication in VPR. Nevertheless, a tally of the poetry selected for Valparaiso Poetry Review during its nine-year history reveals the following surprisingly precise result. I have figured out that the nine volumes of VPR include 368 poems, 184 written by males and 184 written by females—oddly enough, exactly 50% each.

A few observers have put forward a difference in the numbers of submissions to some literary journals by male and female poets as one possible explanation for the lower percentage of women poets represented in their pages. I don’t know if this could be verified to any great extent because journals normally do not keep such statistics for their submissions. Certainly, VPR has never divided its tens of thousands of submissions over the years into any categories at all.

However, for the sake of this research, through examination of the nearly 500 pending submissions received in the last month or so and currently on hand for consideration, the figures again display an almost equal balance: male 49.8%, female 50.2%. (The gender of a few poets submitting work could not be determined because first names were ambiguous or were replaced by initials.) These numbers might suggest that the gender representation in VPR accurately reflects the gender percentages evidenced in overall submissions to the journal.

Nevertheless, as always, the only figures that will matter when works are chosen for publication in Valparaiso Poetry Review will be the figures of speech within the poems and other significant, iconic, or symbolic figures used by the poets. Perhaps even on the rare occasion a number itself and the actual word “figure” might appear, such as in this well-known poem with its ironic title:


Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
fire truck
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.

—William Carlos Williams

For further enjoyment, readers can view an interpretive video clip of “The Great Figure” from the William Carlos Williams episode in the Voices & Vision series at a page on the Annenberg Media Multimedia Collection web site.

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