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

Monday, December 31, 2007

Sylvia Plath: "New Year on Dartmoor"

Since I chose to feature a Christmas poem by Vachel Lindsay last week, I am keeping with a similar theme by presenting today another tragic poet’s work concerning a normally celebratory occasion: Sylvia Plath’s “New Year on Dartmoor.” This piece details a mother’s introduction of the new year’s onset to her child. The poem clearly discloses a contrast between the innocence of the young one and a woman’s growing weariness with the world, as exhibited by specifics of the word choice in the mother’s descriptive language picturing danger in the landscape around her: “tawdry obstacle,” “sudden slippiness,” “the blind, white, awful, inaccessible slant,” etc.

Apparently, the working draft title under which the poem originally was composed read “The Bald Truth about: Frost on Dartmoor in the New Year.” Plath penned this brief, most likely unfinished, piece in December of 1961 and the beginning of 1962 at the time of her son Nicholas’s birth, merely a year or so before her suicide. Plath’s daughter, Frieda, had been born less than two years earlier in 1960.

In the work, readers see the speaker reflecting upon an outing when she walked with her child on Dartmoor, which was near the country village of Devon. Plath and husband Ted Hughes were living there in a charming old manor house at the time, just before the storminess of their marital troubles and turbulent separation in the summer of 1962.

Despite the stereotypical attitude toward a fresh beginning many may associate with the start of a new year, experience has taught the speaker in this poem differently. She seems to believe opening the pages of another calendar may only lead to more days of disappointment and seasons of heartbreak. She seems to detect darker moments lie beneath the bright surfaces of the scenery before her and her baby. Perhaps she even envies the child’s inability to understand the difficulties that lie ahead in the life to be led.

In an interview given about the time this poem was written, Plath spoke of the way she hoped to blend personal experience with a keen intellect and a developed sense of craft in her poetry: “I think my poems immediately come out of the sensuous and emotional experiences I have, but I must say I cannot sympathize with these cries from the heart that are informed by nothing except a needle or a knife, or whatever it is. I believe that one should be able to control and manipulate experiences—even the most terrific, like madness, being tortured, this sort of experience—and one should be able to manipulate these experiences with an informed and an intelligent mind. I think that personal experience is very important, but certainly it shouldn't be a kind of shut-box and mirror looking, narcissistic experience.”

Perhaps Plath viewed her poetry in a manner approximating her approach to painting a self-portrait, as in the above pastel accompanying this post that she completed during her student years at Smith College in the early 1950s, a time during which she had already suffered an emotional breakdown. In both the painting and her poetry Plath appears to be presenting an accurate picture of herself, yet one that subtly and compellingly evokes great unease or suggests lurking melancholy.

I trust everyone looks forward to 2008 with hope for a better future. However, as the start of this new year approaches and many people eagerly anticipate with excitement the days ahead or once again propose resolutions that will not be kept, this poem provides a note of caution when considering what lies before us. It might even suggest that experience and language supply knowledge of the world that will not allow one to be overcome with unrealistic optimism, especially the naïve kind that we often find expressed carelessly each New Year’s Eve before the festive balloons are popped or they slowly deflate during the following day.


This is newness: every little tawdry
Obstacle glass-wrapped and peculiar,
Glinting and clinking in a saint's falsetto. Only you
Don't know what to make of the sudden slippiness,
The blind, white, awful, inaccessible slant.
There's no getting up it by the words you know.
No getting up by elephant or wheel or shoe.
We have only come to look. You are too new
To want the world in a glass hat.

—Sylvia Plath

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ed, I am hooked and your biggest fan! Lovely work. ~ Kim