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

Friday, November 21, 2008

Coleman Hawkins and William Matthews

Coleman Hawkins was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, on this date (November 21) in 1904. Hawkins was among the first jazz musicians to highlight and master the tenor saxophone as a lead instrument, an instrument worthy to be used for a solo, perhaps the instrument that eventually would come to characterize jazz for many listeners. Consequently, he is often considered the “father” of the jazz sax. Indeed, in his book, The History of Jazz (Oxford University Press, 1997), Ted Gioia refers to Coleman as the musician “destined to become one of the most important soloists in the history of jazz.” Gioia further explains: “Hawkins’s influence extended even more to the sound and texture of the saxophone voice, not merely its selection as a jazz instrument.” During the 1930s and 1940s Coleman Hawkins was regarded as the premier saxophonist in the world of jazz, especially known for classic tunes like “Body and Soul.” The above vintage video shows Hawkins performing “Indian Summer” fifty years ago in 1958. Nevertheless, by the 1950s Hawkins already had begun to adjust to the newer styles of jazz presented by the bebop musicians, frequently complementing their innovative techniques with his own playing, promoting the younger musicians, and even including Thelonious Monk among his band members.

Among poets, William Matthews often has been cited as one of the most knowledgeable and discerning devotees of jazz, and his enthusiasm for its music or musicians could be seen reflected in the fine poetry Matthews produced. Sebastian Matthews recalls his father, who died in 1997 at the age of fifty-five, in his memoir, In My Father’s Footsteps (W.W. Norton, 2004):

The reason my father could write so well about jazz was because he had led the working poet’s life so fully—and this kind of artist-for-hire approach afforded him knowledge about some of the essential aspects of jazz: the glamour (the tedium) of travel, the companionship of comrades, nights in hotels and long rides to shabby rooms, late hours, fans who loved you or wanted a piece of you mostly for all the wrong reasons. The rest he learned in books.

And let’s not pass over his ability to listen closely to a record. Or his going to countless live performances, sitting in on the sets both as eager young man and knowing middle-aged gentleman with the graying mustache and the money for a good bottle of wine (say the ’89 pinot noir here at the bottom of the list); or his knowing something about that strange, bitter stalemate that gets called race relations in this country, and his having the courage to say something about it.

Once, when asked in an interview conducted by Dave Johnson that first appeared in a 1995 issue of High Plains Literary Review—reprinted in a posthumous book about William Matthews, The Poetry Blues: Essays and Interviews, edited by Sebastian Matthews and Stanley Plumly (University of Michigan Press, 2001)—about his passion for jazz musicians, especially those like Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane, whose deaths hit him hard, William Matthews replied: “I loved their music so much that their deaths were real losses to me. They were heroic figures to me—who but heroes could have made such music?—and so were almost like fictional characters, who can die (Hector dies, Achilles dies) on the page but remain powerful in the imagination. When those guys died, I thought how I’d never hear the music they’d have made if they’d lived longer, and at that selfish moment death became real to me. I didn’t get it when my great-grandmother died and my great-aunt, and I obviously hadn’t got it when I read The Iliad, but when Hawkins died, 1968, the floor opened, and it got me.”

Out of such an emotional response, William Matthews wrote the following poem, which appeared in his earliest collection of poems, Ruining the New Road (1970):


As if that sax
were made of bone wrenched from his wrist
he urged through it dank music
of his breath. When he blew ballads
you knew one use of force:
withholding it.
This was a river of muscles.
Old dimes oily from handling,
eggs scrambled just right in a diner
after eight gigs in nine nights,
a New Yorker profile, a new Leica
for the fun of having one.
Gasps and twitches.
It’s like having the breath
knocked out of me
and wearing the lost air for a leash.
I snuffle home.
I hate it that he’s dead.

—William Matthews

Readers also are invited to visit another poem by William Matthews, “On the Porch at the Frost Place, Franconia, N.H.,” and my extensive article about his poetry, “‘To Learn To Love the Blues’: William Matthews’s Search Party,” that previously have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review.

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