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

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Tornado Thoughts

The other evening as many in the nation viewed results of the Super Tuesday presidential primaries scrolling across their television screens, weather bulletins occasionally interrupted with reports of severe storms and tornado warnings sweeping across some Southern states. Only in morning light, as the early news programs continued to tally delegate counts earned in California districts by the candidates, could local authorities assess the extent of damage, destruction, and death in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee, where dozens had died during the night.

Newspapers Wednesday recounted how a roof caving under pressure from the winds killed a number of people seeking shelter in a warehouse and warning sirens sounded for hours, blaring throughout the night. As I read the articles, I remembered the many times I have heard such sirens in the nearly twenty-five years since I moved to the Midwest, and I recalled stories told by a couple of old-timers who witnessed such devastation and recollected the enormous cost felt by neighbors in their own hometowns when they were young men. Even now, as they tell of the terrible scenes they had seen decades ago, their eyes reveal hints of lingering emotional ramifications.

On some spring evenings or summer nights when the prolonged signal of a tornado siren can be heard outside my windows—and the Doppler radar on the Weather Channel indicates possibly dangerous conditions—my wife, my son, and I have gathered in our second office and the entertainment room, those two large basement spots providing the safest places in our house and each furnished with extra guest beds. Once, on just such an instance during a power outage, when my son was young and still experiencing difficulty learning language because of his autism, though at times wondering aloud with curiosity about unfamiliar words, I tried to explain the terrifying strength a tornado possesses, and why we were sitting in the dark, the few items of furniture and other objects around us dimly silhouetted by a fading flashlight beam.

Therefore, as I watched network newscast video yesterday afternoon displaying the vast tracts of now vacant fields defining the winding tornado paths, strewn only with bits of ruined communities or unrecognizable rubble, and I listened to the sad stories shared by shaken survivors, my thoughts were with them. I also brought off one of my bookshelves this poem I wrote a while ago:


. . . . . I

I think of that one word learned long ago
. . . . . on a humid summer night much like tonight,

though only spoken softly by old men,
. . . . . their voices wavering with a sense of reverence

or fear. Tornado, they would whisper
. . . . . to the children as if to avoid being overheard

betraying a confidence; again and again
. . . . . they repeated its three syllables, barely audible

above the torrent of rain, the trembling elms,
. . . . . or the rumbling approach of onrushing gusts.

. . . . . II

Tornado. I first read its definition in scrawls
. . . . . of gnarled branches scattered across lawns,

and in the snarl of live power lines hissing
. . . . . like nesting snakes. Its signature was written

in the language of loss—the concrete
. . . . . foundation for the town cinema suddenly

uncovered, the warehouse roof removed,
. . . . . the twisted twin tracks torn from the trestle

bridge and tossed into the river below,
. . . . . the classmate killed by a collapsing water tower.

. . . . . III

My sleepy three-year-old mouths tornado,
. . . . . this new weather word I have spent the evening

teaching him. But by midnight, wretched
. . . . . Midwest winds weaken, their mourning wails

reduced to just a murmur of rustling leaves.
. . . . . A bubble of white moon bulges through black

and blue patterns of cloud breaks,
. . . . . a vault-like canopy opening over everything

we value, and now my son naps in my lap,
. . . . . tired of this term he has not yet gotten to know.

. . . . . —Edward Byrne

[“Tornado” appears in Tidal Air, published by Pecan Grove Press, 2002]

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