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, June 30, 2008

Stanley Clarke

My great interest in jazz blossomed when I was an undergraduate college student and then grew even more during a few years working at the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan while I obtained my creative writing MFA in the graduate program at Brooklyn College, mostly attending night classes after finishing my workday. The initial introduction to many new musicians appearing on the scene often came as a result of my close friendship with a few African American coworkers who knew more about jazz than anyone I’d yet met. At the time, they recommended many artists and albums for me to sample. In fact, every payday my friends and I would walk to the record shop and select stacks of recent albums, both new releases by upcoming, yet mostly unknown, musicians and classic re-releases of original recordings by legendary figures.

On weekend evenings we’d often meet to visit clubs in midtown Manhattan, Greenwich Village, or Harlem where those jazz musicians we’d been following would be appearing. Whether the musicians were traditional acoustic performers or those who had moved into electronic jazz fusion remained one distinction we commonly considered when evaluating the music. Although we enjoyed many of the electronic jazz recordings we’d heard, and Miles Davis had legitimized the form for many with his production of albums like Bitches Brew, my friends and I usually reserved our higher tier of respect for those musicians who continued in the footsteps of the Bebop heroes we held above all in our esteem.

Nevertheless, as Miles had done, a few musicians shifted easily between acoustic and electronic. Among those individuals, Stanley Clarke, a young bassist who’d just graduated from the Philadelphia Academy of Music, was one with whom I became fascinated. Clarke’s first albums released in the early seventies revealed his ability to astound listeners of electronic jazz. Alternating between his role as a member of the great jazz fusion group, Return to Forever, and his own solo albums, Clarke established a distinctive style and drew much attention. Return to Forever had gone through a few changes in band members, but by the third album the group featured a trio of other young super stars—Chick Corea (who had played on Bitches Brew) on keyboards, a very young Al Di Meola on guitar, and Lenny White (who’d played in Miles Davis’s band with Corea) on drums—alongside Stanley Clarke. The music performed by this group is now considered among the best of its era and style.

At the same time, Stanley Clarke was creating his outstanding solo albums, including School Days, still considered one of the great jazz albums of the time. Clarke’s numerous recordings further emphasized his singular playing skills on electronic bass guitar and, as remarkably, on the acoustic double bass or even the piccolo bass. Watching Stanley Clarke’s technique on the bass, one comes away with an impression of excellence rarely matched. Whenever I witnessed Clarke’s performances or listened to his recordings, I imagined comparisons between him and other outstanding artists, perhaps even in poetry or painting, and I drew from him inspiration for odd nontraditional rhythm when writing lines of poetry.

In those days I was studying poetry writing with John Ashbery, and we’d sometimes discuss connections between classical musical pieces and poetry in his work and elsewhere. Consequently, I was developing my own surrealistic group of poems focused upon various jazz musicians. A poem I wrote then that later became one of my first published works, and was eventually included among my early collection in The Return to Black and White, followed Ashbery’s example and also expressed my admiration for Stanley Clarke.

Since Stanley Clarke was born on this date (June 30) in 1951, I thought I’d revisit the piece I had written and present a video of him performing for those who may not have had an opportunity to encounter either the poem or Clarke’s playing. As a bonus, the video includes a brief commentary by Clarke about his inventive approach to creating sound on the bass and providing entertainment.


Startled by these starched features
of faces I have designed, shaped

out of balls of used newspaper,
a chain of comic expressions tied

to sticks neatly planted in a dry
field and left to harden, covered

by clouds as dense as the smoke
of rubber burning in a back yard

on the outskirts of a fragile city
where a tangle of snarled hedges

seems the signature of a wavering
hand and the blotches we call

homes have been bleached by years
of scrubbing, I see glass cannons

fill with fog and hear the sound
of horses in a flaming meadow;

and suddenly, I feel the way
Stanley Clarke must as his thin

fingers quickly bring all into focus.

1 comment:

hida said...

to daniel....some amazingly important things can be said in words that are as simple as having a coke.