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

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Painting, Poetry, and Economy: Rothko, Warhol, and Ashbery

Lately, there have been a couple of items in the news tying poetry to sums of money larger than anyone ever would have associated with the literary form. In its November 12 edition, the New York Times presented an article updating the Modern Poetry Association’s handling of its $100 million gift from Ruth Lilly received exactly five years ago. The grant, now valued at about $200 million, served as a windfall for Poetry magazine and the Poetry Foundation (the new title of the organization); however, such riches emphasized even more the comparative lack of funding or monetary compensation in the field of poetry, as well as the paltry profits, if any, literary journals or poetry books produce.

David Fenza, executive director of the Associated Writing Programs, was quoted by the Times as responding at the time of the grant with some shock and concern about all that money going to one journal: “The problem was, the field is so poor. It’s safe to say the initial disappointment about the grant going all to one entity was huge. The fact that the Poetry board decided not to be a grant-making organization just threw salt in the wound.”

This weekend another news story reports that the estate of Catherine Perrine (wife of Laurence Perrine, the late Southern Methodist University professor and author of popular classroom textbooks on creative writing, particularly his introduction to poetry writing, Sound and Sense) has made a bequest of $3.3 million for SMU to establish an endowed chair in creative writing and to initiate scholarship funds that would benefit English majors.

Repeatedly in my writings and teaching over the years I have emphasized connections between paintings and poetry, as well as artists and authors. I have suggested the poet’s approach to writing lyrical lines frequently reflects a painter’s perspective when framing an image with brush strokes on his or her canvas. Indeed, I expanded a bit on this topic in a previous post at “One Poet’s Notes,” and I continue to believe these art forms exhibit some common concerns.

Yet, this past week’s news reminded me again of a notable difference between poetry and painting. The economic conditions in which the two arts exist are worlds apart. The sums of money mentioned above that are so surprising when associated with poetry seem commonplace when speaking of paintings.

The great gap between society’s expressed material value for paintings as opposed to the apparent lack of monetary status given to poems once more appeared on display last week when Christie’s auctioned a group of post-World War II and contemporary art pieces, selling the works for a total of $325 million. One typical Mark Rothko abstract, Untitled (Red, Blue, Orange), sold for more than $34 million, reminding many of another Rothko work, White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) [pictured above], that brought a return of nearly $73 million only six months ago. In the same sale last spring an Andy Warhol painting, Green Car Crash, was bought for nearly $72 million, and last week another Warhol work—Liz (pictured below), one of his series of Elizabeth Taylor portraits—garnered $23.5 million.

As I read the almost unfathomable figures in the prices paid for these paintings, I recalled observations poet John Ashbery had written in his role as an art critic about this pair of painters decades ago. Ashbery reviewed an exhibit of abstract expressionist paintings at New York’s Whitney Museum in 1978 that included pieces by Mark Rothko, about whom Ashbery reported his “stated intentions have proved frustrating to many who respond readily to his walls of vibrant light and color. He intended the color to convey ‘basic human emotions—tragedy, ecstasy, doom . . .. The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point.’”

Ashbery went on to suggest an artist’s connection with the poetic process—perhaps at the same time also revealing in the mix some personal perspective on writing his own poetry and his expectations of readers’ responses to his poems—when he offered that “any art, once it leaves the studio, is going to be misinterpreted for better or worse—‘misprision’ is the term used by Harold Bloom for our fertile misunderstanding of the poet’s aims. It often seems that the artist’s role is precisely to make himself misunderstood, that misunderstanding and appreciation are much the same. But Rothko’s repeated and vehement caveats leave us uneasy. We are always a little bit embarrassed at esteeming his work for wrong reasons that he foresaw and continually warned against.”

Ashbery concluded about Rothko’s artworks: “The effect of these pictures is truly majestic and awe-inspiring, though the awe is of a secular and aesthetic kind. Or rather, one can feel, without sharing it, the religious experience that was color manifesting itself to the painter.”

Similarly, Ashbery commented on Andy Warhol’s first exhibit in Paris in 1965, again using a literary comparison when declaring the artist was “causing the biggest transatlantic fuss since Oscar Wilde brought culture to Buffalo in the nineties.” Ashbery explained how Warhol’s “opening broke all attendance records at the Galerie Ileana Sonnabend.” Describing Warhol as “a shy, pleasant fellow with dark glasses and a mop of prematurely gray hair,” Ashbery remarked: “Warhol seems surprised and slightly bored by his success.”

Considering the hundreds of millions paid for his art in recent years, one wonders how much more surprised Warhol might be today. Yet, one suspects he’d not be as surprised as those of us reading with pleasure—even if for some cited in the Times article it might be mixed pleasure—this week’s news, witnessing millions of dollars suddenly attached to poetry projects or creative writing endowments. Still, I would be curious to see how much original manuscript pages of Ashbery’s poetry could fetch at auction, perhaps pages from one of the most prominent and much celebrated contemporary poems, “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” which, as I have discussed previously, successfully blended perspectives in poetry and painting, but economically would never be seen as valuable on a par with prominent contemporary paintings.

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