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 26, 2007

William Carlos Williams: "Burning the Christmas Greens"

As these December days dwindle toward year’s end, I’m reminded again of a regular ritual in which I participated as a boy each winter during the week before New Year’s Day. In those days most people decorated real trees under which they could place their gifts on Christmas morning. Few homes had artificial trees, and pine needles would be scattered among the presents or on the silver tracks of the Lionel train set still circling drooping limbs that had dried out rapidly the past couple of weeks. Therefore, in the days after Christmas, families throughout my Brooklyn neighborhood would quickly discard their thinning Christmas trees, placing them beside the street curb for disposal.

My friends and I would drag away the trees before the neighborhood’s weekly trash collection, and we would stack a few dozen of them in an open lot to be lit just after darkness fell. The flames of the bonfire would flare, feather overhead, rising thirty feet or higher above us and brightening the night sky. At the time, my friends and I didn’t consider the scene symbolic in its seasonal colors, the green trees consumed by red flares lifting and twisting above them. Nor did I consider the incident a final salute to the departing year, even as a fresh calendar, ready for markings signaling birthdays or anniversaries, already hung on the kitchen wall.

Along with many from the neighborhood who stood on their stoops or watched from their apartment windows, my friends and I only enjoyed the spectacle of the burning bark, popping branches, and sizzling needles. However, looking back, I now view that annual event as a way for those on my street to eke out one more celebratory moment before providing a sense of closure to the Christmas season, everyone circling the trees and staring in wonder one last time. All shouting with amazement and approval as the darkness gave way to an array of colorful plumes looming over us.

In later years as my interest in poetry developed and I discovered the poems of William Carlos Williams, one work he’d written in 1944 always brought back those wintry days in Brooklyn just before the beginning of the new year when my friends and I would briefly warm ourselves beside a fiery mound of Christmas trees:


Their time past, pulled down
cracked and flung to the fire
—go up in a roar

All recognition lost, burnt clean
clean in the flame, the green
dispersed, a living red,
flame red, red as blood wakes
on the ash—

and ebbs to a steady burning
the rekindled bed become
a landscape of flame

At the winter’s midnight
we went to the trees, the coarse
holly, the balsam and
the hemlock for their green

At the thick of the dark
the moment of the cold’s
deepest plunge we brought branches
cut from the green trees

to fill our need, and over
doorways, about paper Christmas
bells covered with tinfoil
and fastened by red ribbons

we stuck the green prongs
in the windows hung
woven wreaths and above pictures
the living green. On the

mantle we built a green forest
and among those hemlock
sprays put a herd of small
white deer as if they

were walking there. All this!
and it seemed gentle and good
to us. Their time past,
relief! The room bare. We

stuffed the dead grate
with them upon the half burnt out
log's smouldering eye, opening
red and closing under them

and we stood there looking down.
Green is a solace
a promise of peace, a fort
against the cold (though we

did not say so) a challenge
above the snow's
hard shell. Green (we might
have said) that, where

small birds hide and dodge
and lift their plaintive
rallying cries, blocks for them
and knocks down

the unseeing bullets of
the storm. Green spruce boughs
pulled down by a weight of

Violence leaped and appeared.
Recreant! roared to life
as the flame rose through and
our eyes recoiled from it.

In the jagged flames green
to red, instant and alive. Green!
those sure abutments . . . Gone!
lost to mind

and quick in the contracting
tunnel of the grate
appeared a world! Black
mountains, black and red—as

yet uncolored—and ash white,
an infant landscape of shimmering
ash and flame and we, in
that instant, lost,

breathless to be witnesses,
as if we stood
ourselves refreshed among
the shining fauna of that fire.

—William Carlos Williams

[To hear a 1945 audio recording of William Carlos Williams reciting “Burning the Christmas Greens,” readers should visit the mp3 page at the University of Pennsylavania’s PennSound website.]

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