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

Friday, February 1, 2008

Galway Kinnell: A Question of Life or Death

Galway Kinnell was born in Providence, Rhode Island on this date (February 1) in 1927. His first book of poetry, What a Kingdom It Was, appeared in 1960 and contained poems written during the ten years previous to its release. Still in his teens when he first wrote with the hope of someday publishing, as Kinnell once described to Albert Goldbarth in an interview about his early experiences trying to compose poetry: “I didn’t know if I could write poems. I knew that was the only thing I wanted to do, but I didn’t have the slightest idea whether or not I could actually do it . . .. It was a question of life or death to me.”

Over the past half century since composing those first poems included in his premiere volume, Galway Kinnell has proven his initial passion for the art form and his dedication to writing poetry were well-placed investments leading toward a lifetime of poetic achievement. During his career, Kinnell has received the Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Frost Medal, and a MacArthur Fellowship. Kinnell’s volumes of poetry include Strong Is Your Hold; A New Selected Poems; Imperfect Thirst; When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone; Selected Poems; The Past; Mortal Acts, Mortal Words; The Book of Nightmares; Body Rags; Flower Herding on Mount Monadnock; and What a Kingdom It Was. He has served as the editor of The Essential Whitman, and he also has published translations of works by Yves Bonnefoy, Yvan Goll, François Villon, and Rainer Maria Rilke.

Some of Galway Kinnell’s poems have become contemporary standards, works that measure well with the finest poems produced by others in his generation. Among those Kinnell works best known, readers will find “The Bear,” “The Porcupine,” “The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World,” “The Last River,” “Flower Herding on Mt. Monadnock,” “Vapor Trail Reflected in the Frog Pond,” and his book-length masterpiece, The Book of Nightmares, clearly affected by Rilke’s Duino Elegies.

Like a number of others in his generation who made similar transitions in style—including his college roommate at Princeton, W.S. Merwin—Kinnell began by writing poetry in more traditional rhyming lines with a regular rhythm that might have been influenced by his early interest in poets like William Butler Yeats, Emily Dickinson, and Edgar Allan Poe. However, as his distinctive voice developed, the poet adopted a loose but lyrical free verse that more closely resembled lines and language in the works of Walt Whitman or William Carlos Williams, though sometimes mixed with the dramatic intensity found in T.S Eliot’s poetry, especially in Kinnell’s pieces of political or social criticism.

The inevitability of death as defined by mortality and the intrinsic value of life in its many aspects stand as recurring themes in Kinnell’s poetry, whether examining the horrors of war and a cruel tendency toward violence among some humans or exploring the continuity of life through scenes of nature or in images of love. As well, his appreciation for life often can be found in evidence offered by his own children. One example:


For I can snore like a bullhorn
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash,
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
and make for it on the run—as now, we lie together,
after making love, quiet, touching along the length of our bodies,
familiar touch of the long-married,
and he appears—in his baseball pajamas, it happens,
the neck opening so small he has to screw them on—
and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep,
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.

In the half darkness we look at each other
and smile
and touch arms across this little, startlingly muscled body—
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making,
sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake,
this blessing love gives again into our arms.

Readers may listen to Galway Kinnell’s 1980 Guggenheim Museum reading of this poem (with a few added lines and other textual variations) at an Academy of American Poets web page. In addition, I recommend visitors view Kinnell’s very powerful reading of his poem, “Wait”—written “for a student considering suicide due to a love affair gone wrong”—in a video clip from WGBH. Finally, a previous post from September on “One Poet’s Notes” contains an engaging video interpretation of an excerpt with Kinnell reading from The Book of Nightmares. As these pieces suggest, throughout his body of work and now at age 81, Kinnell still seems to view poetry very much as “a question of life or death.”