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

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

George Garrett's Generosity

When I learned this week that George Garrett had died Sunday night at the age of 78 after an extended battle with bladder cancer, I was saddened, as many others were, at the loss of this extraordinary writer, someone whose work has meant much to a few generations of readers. However, the sorrow I felt also had to do with an important personal memory involving Garrett. Three decades ago as I was advancing towards an MFA degree in creative writing, I received the first acceptance for one of my poems to appear in a significant publication. I had submitted a few pieces to be considered for an anthology of works by students in creative writing programs across the country. The Liar’s Craft (an entry in the Intro series brought out by the Associated Writing Programs), which would be published by Doubleday/Anchor Books, proved to be the anthology’s title, and the editor of this recognition for young writers was George Garrett.

Previously, I hadn’t even dared to mail any of my poems to national magazines or literary journals, since I regarded myself as an apprentice who had been convinced one needed to wait a long time and to allow work to ripen before sending it out. I had been counseled wisely by a couple of my teachers that poems were better left on one’s desk a period of time for repeated efforts at revision before the author permitted others to consider them. Consequently, I confess that when I mailed the poetry submission, I didn’t expect an acceptance. However, when I received word that one of my poems had been selected for inclusion in the collection, I was even more surprised—and perhaps almost as pleased—at the manner in which I obtained the news.

My self-addressed stamped envelope arrived thick with paper, which I immediately assumed would be the returned poems and a rejection form. Instead, enclosed within the envelope containing two copies of a standard contract form, George Garrett had composed a three-page handwritten personal letter on yellow legal-pad pages. In an informal and friendly tone, Garrett thanked me for contributing to the book, and he complimented my poetry with a special emphasis on citing specific details from the lines of the accepted poem, as well as praise for the pair not chosen. He also commented about how he considered it a pleasure to have an opportunity to introduce the anthology’s readers to a group of new writers rising from the ranks of creative writing programs. In fact, he remarked that he was grateful the project had brought my poem and the writings of the other young authors to his attention. By the close of the three pages of carefully written double-spaced cursive script, I felt my work had been embraced by an editor whose generous language conveyed interest in the poetry and inspired my confidence in it.

Indeed, after reading the acceptance note by George Garrett, I had gained enough faith in my work that I started submitting regularly to literary journals and began accumulating a steadily increasing record of publications. Garrett certainly could not have known how influential his letter had been in the development of my self-assurance as a writer. From what I later learned about Garrett’s expressions of sincere humility in interviews and his modest manner of behavior with others, I also am sure he would not have acknowledged any individual credit for the self-assurance I suddenly experienced or for any publishing success I gradually achieved as a consequence of that confidence.

Although he was an author of nearly three-dozen books in every sort of genre—novel, short story, poem, play, biography, and essay—as well as the editor for nearly 20 anthologies or for various literary journals and publishing houses, almost every newspaper article or magazine profile ever written about George Garrett has related his many years as an encouraging and enlightening educator of young writers, many of whom have become accomplished authors and effective teachers of creative writing in their own right.

Garrett’s great generosity and continuing support for young and aspiring authors has been chronicled over the years by testimony from a number of his former students. In numerous instances his assistance extended beyond his lessons in the classroom or his role as a mentor for former students. On some occasions Garrett would arrange financial support for a struggling young writer, and he would champion the works of others, even to the point of self-sacrifice. Garrett apparently arranged for the publication of former student Henry Taylor’s first book by recalling his own scheduled book by the same publishing house that had only room in its catalog for one more publication that year.

George Garrett developed the creative writing program at the University of Virginia, and he was among the few who promoted creative writing programs at universities throughout the nation in the 1960s and 1970s. In addition, Garrett’s role as an active ambassador for literature was enhanced by his service as a founder of the Associated Writing Programs and the president of AWP in the organization’s earliest days, just to name a couple of the positions among the many he held that allowed him to offer substantial contributions to literary societies or educational institutions. Indeed, Garrett also furthered public interest in the written word during his two-year tenure as Virginia Poet Laureate.

Consequently, a few years ago the AWP instituted an annual prize, The George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature, which the association describes in the following language:

By bestowing the George Garrett Award, AWP hopes to recognize a few of those individuals who have made exceptional donations of care, time, labor, and money to support writers and their literary accomplishments. This award is named after George Garrett, who made exceptional contributions to his fellow writers as a teacher, mentor, editor, friend, board member, and good spirit. George Garrett served for many years as the editor of Intro, an annual anthology of work by emerging writers; he served as one of the founding members of the AWP Board of Directors; he taught creative writing and literature for more than forty years; and he is the author of more than thirty books. As a writer, teacher, mentor, editor, or inspiration, George Garrett has helped many young writers who are now major contributors to contemporary letters.

One might conclude that Garrett’s generosity towards young and aspiring writers emerged as a result of one of his his own experiences as an apprentice poet. In an interview of George Garrett once conducted by Madison Smartt Bell, another of his successful former students, Garrett responded to a question about his beginnings as a poet:

I got a lot of readings when I was still in college, which was kind of a new thing. But it didn’t even occur to me to try to publish that stuff. My first exposure was reading out loud to an audience, and I did that for quite a little while before getting anything published. That was always the primary basis of everything—the oral. And that makes for a different kind of poem, in a way.

Early on, in some kind of collegiate contest, Marianne Moore was one of the judges, and she got to be a friend. That was in her reclusive stage. She was asked to introduce a younger poet that she liked the work of at the Museum of Modern Art, and since she didn’t know anybody else, she introduced me. In those days, I thought that was perfectly natural: of course I would be taken to the Museum of Modern Art and introduced by Marianne Moore. I went on the fumes of that a long time.

Similarly, when I received George Garrett’s remarkably kind letter accompanying the acceptance of my poem about thirty years ago, I had no idea this example of generosity, support, and enthusiasm—especially for an unknown young writer—was not perfectly natural. Ever since, I have been amazed that such a busy and accomplished author invested so much time and energy as an editor discovering new voices. Although I have had a number of excellent relationships with editors over the decades, and some have become good friends, that initial acceptance letter received from Garrett remains among my most treasured memories.

As George Garrett described the kind gesture toward him by Marianne Moore, Garrett’s act of generosity toward me represented in the language of his letter fueled my ambition as a beginning writer, and I moved forward on the fumes for a long time afterward. Additionally, as a teacher of creative writing encouraging young authors and as an editor of literary journals, I frequently have recalled the lessons learned through Garrett’s stellar example. Indeed, one of my pleasures as an editor of Valparaiso Poetry Review has been the opportunity to introduce new writers to a wider audience of readers that I believe their work deserves.

A funeral for George Garrett will be held June 7th, and he will be buried in the University of Virginia Cemetery. The University of Virginia also will conduct a formal memorial service when students return to classes in the fall semester. Nevertheless, today I’d like again to express my appreciation—as I do every semester when I teach a George Garrett work in the syllabus of my literature classes or creative writing workshops and I relate the story of my first acquaintance with this generous man—for the contribution to literature represented by his tremendous body of work and for his benevolent spirit that often voiced support for other writers, especially young or unknown ones yet developing their own distinctive voices.


Anonymous said...

I spent a half dozen days in George's company, and he always had me crying for more. He was such a great story-teller and raconteur that you felt that being exposed to his conversation was a great gift. He picked my first book for the Missouri series, and I have remained in his debt. I wish we could have spent more time together. He was a great member of the community of letters, and the AWP award in his honor is just.

Sam Gwynn

Anonymous said...

I am very touched by your post about George. He was a great man and a great writer, and a beautiful, beautiful friend. I hope readers will return to his books.

Kelly Cherry