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

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"Golfing with My Father"

On this day of the final round in the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, I remind readers of “Golfing with My Father,” a poem by W.D. Ehrhart included in the current issue (Volume IX, Number 1: Fall/Winter 2007-2008) of Valparaiso Poetry Review. Along with Ehrhart’s poem, I encourage readers to revisit the entire issue once more. In less than two weeks this issue of VPR will be archived and the new Spring/Summer 2008 issue will be released.

For many like myself, the Masters golf tournament represents a sure sign spring has arrived for good. With each of its holes named for the shrubbery, trees, or floral displays found around the course, the scenery seems as luxuriant and inviting as one might find in a botanical park, especially during years when the colorful azaleas are in full bloom. The most famous hole on the course, and one of the best known in all of golf, the twelfth’s par three (“Golden Bell”) provides for a short but perilous poke of about 150 yards over a curve of Rae’s Creek, which winds through Amen Corner, a very difficult part of the course—behind the eleventh green, in front of the twelfth green, and up from the thirteenth tee.

I recall April afternoons when I was young as I watched the tournament on my family’s first color television with my father, both of us born in New York City and products of urban apartment life, wondering what it might be like to walk such manicured stretches of green while birds chirped from brightly flowering branches or lush bushes bordering our path. At the time, we certainly didn’t golf (we knew nobody who did), but we admired the celebrated men on our screen, especially my father’s favorite, Arnold Palmer, whom he initially had watched on our aged black-and-white television set. Indeed, this year marks the 50th anniversary of Palmer winning the Masters in 1958, donning his first of four championship green jackets at Augusta.

Years later, after my father had retired and I was an adult attending graduate school three-quarters of the way across the country, my family moved to Florida. By then, my father and I had both taken up golf separately; however, we would meet each spring and often during the summer months to play the local club’s course that wound around his new house. In fact, I would travel for annual visits on spring break, which fortunately always coincided with the professional golf tournament at Bay Hill, near my family’s home. Its legendary resident, Arnold Palmer, has always hosted the Bay Hill tournament.

Unlike other major sports, fans easily can speak with the players, as they gather at the practice greens and driving range, and whenever possible—especially during practice rounds—one can walk the course engaged in conversation with the players at each tee. Frequently, my father and I took advantage of these opportunities. I can still picture my father’s enthusiasm and amazement the first time he spoke with Palmer, asking a question about his powerful and sharply finishing swing as Arnie paused to chat while waiting for a group in front of him to finish their tee shots. (I still hear Palmer’s half laughing and half serious response, commenting about how he had always hit the ball as hard and as far as he could, then went looking to see where it wound up.) After all, here was the “King” of golf, that figure my father had followed typically marching with his confident swagger the length of fairways on the television set in our Brooklyn living room or on the small screen fixed to the corner of a wall at the VFW hall. Arnold Palmer was now sharing bits of humor just like any other pal might on a Friday night at the VFW, where my dad would volunteer to tend bar once a week.

Nevertheless, I must admit, although we walked Bay Hill’s fairways with a number of the greatest golf pros over the years, my best memories are of the many days my father and I walked together as we played the course at his club with nobody else accompanying us. Those long rounds that began in early morning light but sometimes went into afternoon hours as we tackled the eighteen holes—halting for a lunch at the turn before the tenth hole—presented us suddenly with opportunities we’d never really had before (especially since my father usually was not a man of many words, and neither was I) for extended discussions about almost anything.

At the end of each day we penciled the scores on our cards, and all season we kept records of our rounds; however, nowadays when I reflect or write of my recollections of those events, the numbers are absent and only the content of our conversations remains. Consequently, when I read W.D. Ehrhart’s wonderful poem about golfing with his father I am thankful my history is different, and I continue to consider the time spent on the golf course with my father as among the most enjoyable experiences and happiest days I can remember.


My father took up golf in middle age,
the dumbest game I ever tried to play,
but it was nineteen-sixty-nine, and I
was at a loss to figure out a way
to bridge the gaping generation gap
that lay between us like an open wound:

the ex-Marine just back from Vietnam
and telling anyone who’d listen what
a crock of crap the myth of manhood was;
the minister who’d spent his life convinced
his cousin Bob had died in Germany
because my dad had never been to war.

Not a lot of common ground between us
in those bad old days of Richard Nixon,
Jimi Hendrix, burning bras, and LSD.

So the afternoon my dad invited me
to play a round, I figured what the heck,
it can’t be all that hard to hit a ball
that isn’t moving, and it’s something he
and I can do together. Which it was.

Or wasn’t. More exactly, it was something
he could do while I could only hack my
way from hole to hole like some demented
backhoe operator digging random
trenches by the dozen ten and fifteen
yards apart from here to Kingdom Come.

Dad tried to coach me, but he might as well
have tried to teach a mackerel how to dance.

Before we reached the seventh hole, with what
few shreds of sanity I still had left
I realized I’d better quit before
I killed someone: my dad, or me—or maybe
the sonofabitch a hole behind us
laughing every time another chunk of God’s
green acres sailed farther than the ball.

Next time my dad suggested golf, we went
for lunch to Meg & Bill’s instead. They served
a wicked cheesesteak sandwich and we ate
in silence, elbows on the counter top,
shoulders hunched, our fingers dripping grease.

—W.D. Ehrhart

W.D. Ehrhart is the author of more than twenty books or chapbooks of poetry and prose, including seven full-length collections of poems. He also has edited anthologies of literature about the Vietnam and Korean wars. In addition, his work has appeared widely in magazines and literary journals, such as American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, New Letters, North American Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and War, Literature & Arts.

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