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

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Carolyn Forché on Politics and the Poetry of Witness

In the final week before Election Day, “One Poet’s Notes” offers a daily series of diverse and differing views expressed in the past by well-known poets about the relationships they perceive between politics and poetry. For ages, connections between these two arenas of interest have been central to many debates concerning the proper place for poetry and other arts in discourse regarding decisions influencing actions responding to contemporary circumstances surrounding social or political issues, whether local or national.

Perhaps Walt Whitman’s famous line from the opening section of “Song of Myself” in Leaves of Grass remains a perfect starting point for any such examination and still stands as a succinct summation:

“The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.”

Nevertheless, disagreements over the appropriateness or effectiveness of artists—particularly poets—engaging in overt political observations and recommendations (perhaps seeing such activity as an obligatory part of their professional position) or promoting political agendas in their works (maybe even if accomplished more subtly) continue with each round of elections, as well as during every controversial political occurrence or crucial social event that arises.

Some suggest poetry may be unable to address the most horrendous acts of our times, such as the Holocaust. Indeed, George Steiner and Theodor Adorno appeared to declare the atrocities of Auschwitz beyond the reach of poetry. Other figures agree with the line in W.H. Auden’s poem, “In Memory of W.B. Yeats,” that claims “poetry makes nothing happen”; yet, readers also recall Auden authored the magnificent poem of social and political reflection, “September 1, 1939.” Of course, William Carlos Williams seemed to respond to Auden’s sentiment when he presented his opinion on the essential nature of poetry: "It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there."

Today’s commentary by Carolyn Forché comes from her essay, “El Salvador: An Aide-Mémoire,” which appeared in Poetry and Politics, an anthology of essays edited by Richard Jones and published by Quill Press in 1985.

There is no such thing as nonpolitical poetry. The time, however, to determine what those politics will be is not the moment of taking pen to paper, but during the whole of one’s life. We are responsible for the quality of our vision, we have a say in the shape of our sensibility. In the many thousand daily choices we make, we create ourselves and the voice with which we speak and work.

From our tradition we inherit a poetic, a sense of appropriate subjects, styles, forms, and levels of diction; that poetic might insist that we be attuned to the individual in isolation, to particular sensitivity in the face of “nature,” to special ingenuity in inventing metaphor. It might encourage a self-regarding, inward-looking poetry. Since Romanticism, didactic poetry has been presumed dead and narrative poetry has had at least a half life. Demonstration is inimical to a poetry of lyric confession and self-examination, therefore didactic poetry is seen as crude and unpoetic. To suggest a return to the formal didactic mode of Virgil’s Georgics or Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura would be to deny history, but what has survived of that poetic is the belief that a poet’s voice must be inwardly authentic and compelling of our attention; the poet’s voice must have authority.

I have been told that a poet should be of his or her time. It is my feeling that the twentieth-century human condition demands a poetry of witness.

[Visitors are urged to read an alternative opinion voiced in a previous commentary in this series, a perspective that was drawn from an essay by Howard Nemerov. Saturday, “One Poet’s Notes” will present an additional view on the relationship between poetry and politics by Muriel Rukeyser.]

Other voices in the Poetry and Politics series:

Robert Pinsky
Stanley Kunitz
Howard Nemerov
Muriel Rukeyser

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