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, June 15, 2008

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "Frost at Midnight"

Every year as Father’s Day arrives a number of famous poems on the subject of fatherhood come to mind. However, one of the poems I often recall has added significance for other reasons. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight” is well known for the way it relates a father’s thoughts about his relationship with an infant son and the possibilities that exist for the son’s future, especially as he might come to experience or learn about nature and its lessons. Nevertheless, each time I read this poem I am reminded of a discussion during one of my graduate creative writing classes with Mark Strand. As we were deliberating about poems of mine under consideration, Mark suggested that some of the recurring concerns included in my poetry sometimes mirror those contained in “Frost at Midnight.”

The voice in the Coleridge poem sounds conversational while also emphasizing imagery. In addition, the poet contrasts his past, and an upbringing in the city among urban distractions, with the presence of nature in his present situation. Moreover, the speaker sees nature as an apt metaphor for a more spiritual attitude toward life, as well as an inspiration for the lessons it offers us. Indeed, the poem illustrates an individual’s meditative musings on nature and imagination, which also move from the past to the present and then toward a perception of possibilities for the future, especially as concerns the speaker’s young son.

At the time of the creative writing workshop, I was producing poems that attempted to imitate a relaxed informal voice yet including vivid imagery. Living in the Utah foothills, I frequently wrote poems contrasting the natural scenery currently around me, as well as my present experiences, with a childhood and upbringing in New York City. Often, my goals within the poetry concentrated on blending details of the natural environment with imaginative links to contemplative or speculative commentary, repeatedly bridging the past with the present and projecting into the future.

Although at the time I didn’t yet have a son about whom I would write, I already had a number of poems regarding the relationship I had enjoyed with my father. However, in recent years I have written many similar poems about the relationship I have with my son. In fact, Tidal Air has been described generously by Walt McDonald as a book-length diptych, a pair of poems—“first, about a son; last, about a father. The man we come to love both as father and as son is the voice caught in the middle of heartache and natural, ecstatic joy.”

When Mark Strand suggested studying more closely Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight” as a model for my own poetry, I already knew the poem somewhat, but I admittedly hadn’t examined it as closely as I should have, nor did I immediately recognize the connections to many of my own poems. Strand insisted that I become more familiar with Coleridge’s poem by the next class meeting, which I did. In the decades since then, this poem has been a favorite of mine, one to which I have returned again and again for enlightenment, drawing upon it for guidance in my own writing. I was thankful for Strand’s recommendation that I reexamine Coleridge’s poem, and on this Father’s Day I would like to take the opportunity to urge readers revisit it as well.


The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet’s cry
Came loud--and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
’Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,
Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, every where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.

But O! how oft,
How oft, at school, with most believing mind,
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower,
Whose bells, the poor man’s only music, rang
From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day,
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come!
So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt,
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams!
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor’s face, mine eye
Fixed with mick study on my swimming book:
Save if the door half opened, and I snatched
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up,
For still I hoped to see the strangers face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My play-mate when we both were clothed alike!

Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the interspersed vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!
My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes! For I was reared
In the great city, pent ’mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity, doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

—Samuel Taylor Coleridge


sprakash said...

I was going through what you have written regards the poem 'Frost at Midnight' and I was hoping if you could further explain the line "as well as an inspiration for the lessons it offers us"...

Julie Daniel said...

One thing remarkable about the poetic creations of Coleridge is that there is much freshness and vitality in what he says. Quite often, he brings people into another world of fantasy. This is well evident in poems such as "Kublakhan. He is truly a champion of verses in the romantic tradition. While Wordsworth reigned the poetic world as an emperor, Coleridge also had got equal consideration as a first rate poet.
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