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 27, 2008


Lynnell Edwards is the featured poet in the Spring/Summer 2008 issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review (Volume IX, Number 2). The new issue of VPR also includes my review of her latest book of poems, as can be seen in the following excerpt and accompanying link to the entire essay.

Standing Straight in a Sparking Storm: Lynnell Edwards’ The Highwayman’s Wife

With her second collection of poetry, The Highwayman’s Wife, Lynnell Edwards continues to present work readers often find emphatic, even uniquely forceful, frequently requiring an alert and attentive listener who appreciates lyrical poetry posing a point of view that at times educates and almost always entertains. In addition to her two books of poetry, over the years Edwards regularly has written reviews for various literary journals. During one of her reviews that appeared in the Fall 2005 issue of Georgia Review, Lynnell Edwards commented on a couple of collections of poetry criticism, including a volume by Helen Vendler. In her remarks, Edwards discussed and complimented how Vendler stresses the importance of voice in a poet’s work, citing the examples of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and William Butler Yeats. Edwards agrees with Vendler that an individual writer’s distinguishing voice, even when modulated to suit a persona as speaker, effectively reveals to readers the poet’s thinking process and personal perspective, and it welcomes each reader into the world of the poet or the poem’s persona.

While reading Lynnell Edwards’ poetry—both The Highwayman’s Wife and her previous volume, The Farmer’s Daughter (Red Hen Press, 2003)—I have repeatedly been pleased to discover precisely the characteristic admired by Vendler to be evident in so many poems. Edwards’ work continually demonstrates a distinctive voice revealing a process of thought, inviting her readers to witness the process and sharing with the readers an individual view—sometimes representing the poet’s perception, other times shown through the eyes of a carefully chosen persona — on the subject matter under discussion or delivering an emotional response evoked within the lines of poetry.

Indeed, The Highwayman’s Wife offers a generous collection of poems also demonstrating Edwards’ ability to adjust her voice when employing traditional form, such as the sonnet, or when straying away from rigid form toward the looser and more informal language contained within her free verse pieces. Importantly, the poet appears confident and in control no matter which tactic or type of poem she chooses as the way to convey engaging content that continually enlightens. As one might expect, the collection’s title poem may serve as an appropriate point of reference. “The Highwayman’s Wife” exists as a sonnet with an irregular rhyme scheme sitting within a section of eleven such sonnets. The form supplies a sense of boundaries beyond which the speaker must move through use of effective language that projects some compelling subject matter to its readers, inviting personal involvement or emotional interest.

“The Highwayman’s Wife” skillfully blends descriptive passage with declarative statement (“Another moon past and again the persistent rain. / She wants a child.”) to create a persuasive and authoritative voice that depicts its situation with a definitive tone. While the wife remains home, distracted by sounds from her neighbor’s children—“the shouts of their game, the debris of their play / strewn across her sister’s lawn”—she endures a loneliness: her husband roams far, “always away,” and when he does return, he’s simply “whiskied and loose, / distracted, rambling about some deal.” The wife wants children of her own, small ones she could “stack at night in their little beds, / huddle them into her empty, empty arms, / and carry them into her marvelous, flower-filled yard.”

In the opening poem (“Go”) of this sonnet sequence about a figure of folklore, readers view the highwayman preparing once more for another journey, hesitant as he awaits the best day for travel: “Three days ago he’d packed his case, shined / his boots and bit, but could not lift the latch.” The wife also can be seen reluctantly readying for his absence: “when the night arrives, / wood and larder stocked, wife resigned / and sighing by her lonesome stove . . ..” However, this central series of sonnets in the volume also shows Edwards’ poetry presenting a progressive sense of suspense and action, as she vividly displays the highwayman’s method of operation when he preys upon drunkards in the dark who “stagger from the lighted inn” or rural family men who “travel to town, helpless, burdened / with a foundered hog, a ragged goat.” The poet shares the following instructions in “How It’s Done”:

A knifepoint and a level stare is all you need.
Call it highway tax, or ferry toll: your due receipt.
But for the wayward coach the expert guile
is to ride along beside, affect a lover’s smile,
offer help, safe passageway and then assassinate
the driver.

Elsewhere in the series, Edwards allows readers an opportunity to understand the uncertainties on this road: “Pistols, derringers, daggers, ropes, no matter / what you pack you’re not prepared. Disaster / happens quick from lack of feed as powder, / your beast no more certain than the weather” (“Weapons, the Road”). An ironic comment contained in “The Problem of Roommates” suggests that even the thief can be vulnerable and must be cautious about others: “while you rest, they steal, / smuggle small goods from your leather pack.” Speaking in second person, the highwayman lends a word to the wise as he reminds himself about occasions of distrust and deception, those twisted conditions in the life he has chosen to pursue:

. . . Again, another night
you meant to trust a fellow thief, and instead
of honor, found absence and deception, cold regret,
portent clouds, a rush of swallows, the story of your life.

Earlier in the collection, readers had been introduced to the Highwayman when Edwards began the book with a prelude titled “Sonnet for the Highwayman.” In that first glimpse at the figure, he is depicted as the victim of another at a stop he considered a “safe house, the happy way / station on the lonely road.” The female speaker in this poem boasts: “I will rob you, lover. Cut your purse, / pilfer the gold coins stitched inside your shirt / when I reach for a kiss, ungirdle your bright sword / for my own device, whirl away into the Highland night.” The poet discloses the wild and wily woman who knows how to disarm and deceive even the thieves. She is one of the “youngest daughters / taught to lie, steal, before they can read.” Unlike the highwayman’s wife—who yearns for her man’s presence at home, her husband’s attention, and a few children of her own—this speaker reveals she does not desire “domestic lore”; instead, she has been trained to trick men with falsehood:

. . . we are schooled in deception, forgery,
as quick to sign our names as another.
So abandon your treasure, your precious bounty,
loose your horse to forage his animal soul,
then on your knees, love. I have already stolen your cloak.

Despite the book’s title, the prelude, and the central location of this fine sequence of sonnets concerning a highwayman, the collection contains other complex connections between individual poems. . ..

[Visitors are invited to read the rest of the review, as well as other works in the new issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review.]

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The article emphasis on the fact that highwaymen were not always gangstars but sometimes polite gentlemen