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, December 5, 2007

Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick

With news this week of Elizabeth Hardwick’s death at the age of 91, readers certainly might be quickly reminded of her dramatic marriage to Robert Lowell and the controversy concerning his publication of a pair of books based upon their relationship. Although Hardwick established her own impressive reputation as a novelist, critic, and essayist, her connection to the turmoil surrounding Robert Lowell’s release of a trio of his loose sonnet collections nearly thirty-five years ago (History, For Lizzie and Harriet, and The Dolphin, all released in 1973 and the latter two frequently chronicling the couple’s personal moments—as well as those of their daughter Harriet—or the painful process leading to their divorce) has been thoroughly reported over the decades since then.

At the time, Lowell had been immersed in a period during which he produced personal poetry that stretched the limits of his confessional style, sequences of open sonnets, unrhymed lines that often incorporated verbatim intimate snippets of dialogue or private passages of correspondence. Among the materials included were quoted sections drawn from letters sent by Hardwick after their separation and Lowell’s relationship with Lady Caroline Blackwood had begun. Indeed, Blackwood’s pregnancy and the birth of their son, Sheridan, are documented in The Dolphin.

Lowell’s use of such confidential details disturbed some of his closest friends and most trusted readers of his poetry, including Elizabeth Bishop. Despite her admiration for “honest poetry” and the quality evident in many of the poems, Bishop advised Lowell in 1972 he was betraying Hardwick a second time in his writing by setting down aspects about his infidelity during their marriage and particularly by violating the trust inherent in a private correspondence. Ironically, in a famous letter she wrote him, Bishop counseled Lowell that “art just isn’t worth that much.” Continuing the irony with references to lines in a letter once written by Hopkins about how to be a gentleman, she explained to Lowell: “It is not being ‘gentle’ to use personal, tragic, anguished letters that way—it’s cruel.”

Critical responses to Lowell’s three volumes varied greatly, especially those reviewing For Lizzie and Harriet, which narrated difficulties in marriage and his position as a father, and The Dolphin, which went further and employed segments of Hardwick’s letters in a sequence that reported his romance with Blackwood, who would become his third wife. Some reviews remarked favorably upon the poetic experimentation and bare emotions revealed in the collection; in fact, The Dolphin eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Lowell’s first since Lord Weary’s Castle, published three decades earlier. However, others expressed dismay at the impropriety of Lowell’s tactics, as well as a sense of laxness they perceived in the act of composition: in Sewanee Review, Paul Ramsey wrote that the poems were “unimportant, incomprehensible, and boring.”

Perhaps the most vicious attack came from poet and feminist Adrienne Rich, who characterized The Dolphin as “a cruel and shallow book” and wrote in her American Poetry Review commentary: “what does one say about a poet who, having left his wife and daughter for another marriage, then titles a book with their names and goes on to appropriate his ex-wife’s letters written under the stress and pain of desertion, into a book of poems nominally addressed to the new wife?”

Nevertheless, a number of the poems in these volumes seem to rise above the worst tendencies exhibited by Lowell in the personal sequences. Among those better poems would be the final piece in For Lizzie and Harriet, which captures some of the conflict and the continuing but conflicting emotions experienced during Robert Lowell’s marriage to Elizabeth Hardwick:


Our love will not come back on fortune’s wheel—

in the end it gets us, though a man know what he’d have:
old cars, old money, old undebased pre-Lyndon
silver, no copper rubbing through . . . old wives;
I could live such a too long time with mine.
In the end, every hypochondriac is his own prophet.
Before the final coming to rest, comes the rest
of all transcendence in a mode of being, hushing
all becoming. I’m for and with myself in my otherness,
in the eternal return of earth’s fairer children,
the lily, the rose, the sun on brick at dusk,
the loved, the lover, and their fear of life,
their unconquered flux, insensate oneness, painful “It was. . . .”
After loving you so much, can I forget
you for eternity, and have no other choice?

On this occasion of Elizabeth Hardwick’s death, one also might be reminded of the well-known circumstances of Lowell’s death in 1977. After troubled times in his marriage to Caroline Blackwood and their estrangement, Lowell had returned to Hardwick. As Ian Hamilton describes Lowell’s last hours in his biography, the poet travels from England to be with Hardwick: “Lowell arrived in New York on the afternoon of September 12, and took a taxi from Kennedy Airport. When the driver reached West 67th Street, he saw that Lowell had slumped over in his seat, he was holding a large brown-paper parcel and he seemed to be asleep. Elizabeth Hardwick was called from the house and rode in the taxi to Roosevelt Hospital: ‘But I knew that he was dead.’ Hours afterwards Hardwick opened the parcel Lowell had been carrying—it was a portrait of Lady Caroline. He had brought it over to be ‘valued’ in New York.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think Adrienne Rich was being "vicious". She and Lowell were friends before this happened and of course that friendship disintegrated during the course of Lowell's divorce from Hardwick. She just wanted Lowell to demonstrate some honor.