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, November 3, 2008

Robert Pinsky on Poetry and Politics

In the final week before Election Day, “One Poet’s Notes” has been offering 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 social or 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 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 Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laureate of the United States, references Carolyn Forché’s “El Salvador: An Aide Memoire,” which was excerpted in a previous post on “One Poet’s Notes.” Pinsky’s observations come from his essay, “Responsibilities of the Poet,” which appeared in Twentieth-Century American Poetics: Poets on the Art of Poetry (McGraw Hill, 2004), edited by Dana Gioia, David Mason, and Meg Schoerke:

Certain general ideas come up repeatedly, in various guises, when contemporary poetry is discussed. One of these might be described as the question of what, if anything, is our social responsibility as poets.

That is, there are things a poet may owe the art of poetry—work, perhaps. And in a sense there are things writers owe themselves—emotional truthfulness: attention toward one’s own feelings. But what, if anything, can a poet be said to owe other people in general, considered as a community? For what is the poet answerable? This is a more immediate—though more limited—way of putting the question than such familiar terms as “political poetry” . . ..

Witness may or may not involve advocacy, and the line between the two will be drawn differently by each of us; but the strange truth about witness is that though it may include both advocacy and judgment, it includes more than them, as well. If political or moral advocacy were all we had to answer for, that would be almost easy. Witness goes further, I think, because it involves the challenge of not flinching from the evidence. It proceeds from judgment to testimony.

In the most uncompromising sense, this means that whatever important experience seems least poetic to me is likely to be my job. Carolyn Forché, for example, writes:

“In those days I kept my work as a poet and journalist separate, of two distinct mentalités, but I could not keep El Salvador from my poems because it had become so much a part of my life. I was cautioned to avoid mixing art and politics, that one damages the other, and it was some time before I realized that ‘political poetry’ often means the poetry of protest, accused of polemical didacticism, and not the poetry which implicitly celebrates politically acceptable values.”

That is, the poet realized that what had seemed “unpoetic” or fit only for journalism, because it was supposedly contaminated with particular political implications, was her task. The “contamination” of “politics” was her responsibility, what she had to answer for as if she had promised something about it when she undertook the art of poetry. A corollary realization is that “all poetry is political”: what is politically acceptable to some particular observer may seem “unpolitical” to that observer.

[Visitors are urged to read previous commentaries in this series drawn from works by Howard Nemerov, Carolyn Forché, Muriel Rukeyser, and Stanley Kunitz.]

1 comment:

Peter said...

This is a very broad topic, which may be why you had so much trouble describing it in following very murky phrase: "...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." I do appreciate Pinsky's comments about witnessing and not flinching and his understanding of Forche's views.