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

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Elizabeth Alexander Comments on Her Inaugural Poem

Dave Rosenthal, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun book blog, “Read Street,” sent me an email yesterday afternoon informing that he had just interviewed Elizabeth Alexander about the experience of serving as Barack Obama’s inaugural poet. Rosenthal explained he was interested in the magnitude of the discussion and debate concerning Alexander’s poem, as well as her delivery of it, in the days following last week’s historic event. He had noticed an excitement and passion for poetry in the comments at his blog, here at “One Poet’s Notes,” and elsewhere around the nation that he had not observed previously.

Regardless of a reader’s judgment of the quality displayed in Alexander’s poem or a viewer’s evaluation of the effectiveness in her reading of the work, having contemporary poetry spotlighted in such a manner revealed deep beliefs or strong emotions held by many across the country about the various purposes and forms of poetry. As I commented about the numerous reactions to “Praise Song for the Day” on this blog: “the interest received by the poem has been remarkable to witness. No matter what one's opinion may be of this individual poem, we can all thank Alexander and Obama for reinvigorating discussion or debate about poetry and its place in public ceremony.”

In Rosenthal’s fine interview of Elizabeth Alexander, she details her preparation for the day, describes her participation on such a momentous occasion, and considers the substantial commentary—positive, negative, or mixed—that has resulted from her presentation. The original article at “One Poet’s Notes” about Alexander’s reading of the inaugural poem received the largest number of visitors for any posted in the past two years, and it led to the blog’s biggest reaction from readers in the comments section. As I suggested in that piece: “Elizabeth Alexander deserves commendation for her courage as she literally placed herself and her poetry in front of the nation for critical examination.” Now, she displays grace as she accepts the consequences of that focused examination—praise and disapproval, compliments and criticism, elation and disappointment—while encouraging the continuation of a vigorous discussion about poetry.

Elizabeth Alexander declares in her conversation with Dave Rosenthal that she intended to offer a poem with “clarity that didn’t sacrifice complexity.” In preparation, she “tried to preserve a writing process” similar to her customary procedure when composing poems. The poet confides she has been impressed by the response received from so many who are “not regular readers of poetry,” indicating poetry may be “meaningful to many more people” than usually thought. Indeed, Alexander also has received messages from other poets confirming her attitude that the whole exercise has been “good for poetry,” and she encourages the sustained “natural conversation about poetry” that this opportunity appears to have initiated for some or greatly influenced for others.

After reviewing so many comments by readers following the inaugural presentation, I urge visitors to listen to the audio of Dave Rosenthal’s interview with Elizabeth Alexander. Although the opposing opinions possessed by many about the inaugural poem may not be altered by Alexander’s contribution to this ongoing conversation about poetry, the presence of her voice certainly adds weight to the significance of the discussion and, fortunately, ensures the current robust dialogue about poetry has not yet ended.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Edward.

Alfred Corn said...

One of the reasons U.S. citizenship is valuable is that dissent is allowed in public discussion. No matter what poem is brought up for discussion, you can guarantee there will be polarized opinions about it in a moment when there is little consensus about American poetry. All the more when a poem is the focus of so much media attention.

Could we allow that the writing of a major poem in the space of two months' time--and a public poem at that--is, practically, impossible. Perhaps Shakespeare could do it. Who else? Frost's Inaugural poem is one of his weaker efforts, and he is acknowledged as one of the 20th century's major poets. It seems fair to suggest that Alexander's severest critics write the poem they would have produced if asked to provide one for January 20, and then let the public discuss it.

Jeff Gill said...

You get a quieter echo of this debate among musicians, who were tepid in their praise of John Williams' commissioned piece, played at noon by the distinguished quartet -- the debate might have been more vehement had not that topic been distracted by the (should have been unsurprising) revelation that it was pre-taped.

What many said was that instead of an homage to Aaron Copland, why not just play Copland? There's a measure, i think, of sour grapes -- c'mon, John Williams, are there any gigs he doesn't get? -- but also a public conditioned response: "oh, that sounds like what i expected to hear, and nicely so . . . and it's done, so now i applaud."

Poetry doesn't have those kind of associations for the general public. Do we clap after really good runs of alliteration? What rhyme scheme are we expecting -- Hiawatha's, or The Raven's? So to say that there should be an existing poem used, and not commissioned, is akin to the question of a musical commissioned piece.

The fact is that some commissions result in music or poetry that endures, and some sounds nice that day but is forgotten, and others just lie there and whimper off the page. I rather like Frost's little known unread piece for Kennedy's inauguration, and dislike "The Gift Outright" (to be fair, for mostly historic/ethnographic reasons - the land wasn't ours), but "The Gift Outright" *sounded like* a poem to the listeners, and Frost knew how to sell it.

Alexander did not "sell it" very well at all, but time will tell. I say, keep public commissions as a tradition, whether musical or portraiture (how many of those are classics? some, not all), and most emphatically poetic.

And we can all start angling for the gig in four years, unless John Williams starts writing poetry.

Jeanie Thompson said...

"One Poet's Notes" continues to be a trusted space for dialogue in the poetry community --- I really appreciate this kind of self-less tending of the victory garden for poetry. The fact that Alfred Corn and Jeff Gill left comments testifies to the fact.

I wanted to also say for point of fact that, as reported on NPR a few days before the Inauguration, all the music involving wind instruments had to be prerecorded because of the predicated subfreezing weather.

People will never agree on "the question" and like Alfred rightly points out, dissent is the watchword in the USA. But let's agree that discussion of the arts in America (including recent news stories on CNN about how the stimulus package will bolster arts and nonprofits that support the arts) is the right, and even duty, of all of us.

Thanks again, Ed