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, March 17, 2008

Irish American Poetry

The recent release of The Book of Irish American Poetry: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present, edited by Daniel Tobin and published by the University of Notre Dame Press (2007), supplies the most comprehensive collection of poetry concerning this topic thus far. The volume of more than 900 pages presents work by over two hundred poets.

This collection intends to address a question that opens Tobin’s introductory note: “What does it mean to be an Irish American poet?” As the book jacket copy contributes, the anthology “answers this question by drawing together the best and most representative poetry by Irish Americans and about Irish America that has been written over the past three hundred years.”

Further, Tobin comments: “The question is not just rhetorical, for it raises to consciousness the issue of a certain kind of imaginative identity that rarely, if ever, has been adequately explored. In fact, the question is so fundamental that we might want to rephrase it in such a way that something of what is at stake behind the question enters into its form: Does the experience of being Irish American predispose the Irish American poet to embrace any characteristic themes, subjects, or styles? Is there in such poetry something that might be identified as uniquely Irish American sensibility, in the same way one might identify Jewish American poetry or African American Poetry? And, if not, is it worth even using the appellation ‘Irish American Poetry,’ as though such a thing existed in any artistically commendable form?”

Today, on St. Patrick’s Day, these questions seem timely or appear more appropriate, and I recommend readers examine the anthology. The poems selected for inclusion vary greatly in style and subject matter. In addition, since the book explores Irish American poetry rather than just Irish American poets, Tobin’s editorial reach is extensive, as one finds within the volume’s covers a wide array of poets who claim Irish ancestry or who write pieces about Ireland and the Irish: Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Robinson Jeffers, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, John Berryman, Thomas McGrath, Robert Creeley, Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan, Charles Olson, Galway Kinnell, X.J. Kennedy, Jean Valentine, Alan Dugan, Maureen Stanton, Brendan Galvin, Billy Collins, Susan Howe, Michael Ryan, Irene McKinney, James Schuyler, Maureen Owen, John Logan, Joan Houlihan, Walt McDonald, Eavan Boland, and many others.

I am pleased that a couple of my poems also are included in the anthology, and I offer one of them here:


I have a feeling for those ships
Each worn and ancient one . . .
—Herman Melville

Often I think of those lost and luring
evenings I’d walk along the wharves

where the charter ships were rooted:
Virginia II, Susanna B, Princess Ellen . . ..

The workers would still be there, hosing
down the decks, storing supplies, sometimes

scraping paint from the blistered hulls.
After a while I knew their names too.

Slattery was my favorite. He understood
what a boy wanted to hear, wanted to see.

Once, pointing to a lagoon where scows
lay at anchor in the offshore shallows,

each darkening the green water-light
like a brush stroke too thickly applied,

he spoke of their owners, men he’d known
since he was a boy, and how they lived

the way their fathers had before them,
unchanged, like the long, straight skyline

of the sea. Daily, in all weather,
they cruised those waters, indistinguishable

as driftwood. In the pre-dawn they’d cross
against the slow pull of the tide,

their lamps burning through the frost-smoke
that rose over the black bay, then linger

along the point in the first wink of sun.
When the ships returned in the late afternoon,

each with an elongated shadow trailing
beside the whiteness of its wake, I’d watch

until I could see every man’s face,
each one sun-puffed, imprinted with squint marks.

Overhead, the flowering sky would clutter
with gulls following indiscernible clouds

of fish scent, as if in a homecoming.
Soon, the constellations, too, would collect

far above the darkened harbor, and I,
too young to know any better, would leave

for home, believing everything would remain
the same, that even I would never change.

[“Homecoming” previously appeared in my third book of poems, Words Spoken, Words Unspoken (Chimney Hill Press, 1995).]

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