POETRY FROM PARADISE VALLEY

POETRY FROM PARADISE VALLEY
Click Image to Visit the Pecan Grove Press Web Page for Poetry from Paradise Valley

POETRY FROM PARADISE VALLEY web page

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, February 14, 2009

Robert Penn Warren: "Birth of Love"



On this Valentine’s Day, I’d like to remind all of Robert Penn Warren’s poem, “Birth of Love,” which appeared in his collection, Or Else: Poem/Poems 1968-1974 (Random House, 1974).

Reminiscent of the Botticelli painting, Birth of Venus (detail pictured above), this poem reflects an individual’s passionate and admiring attention to his beloved. In doing so, it examines the subject of his love and the source of his lust. Robert Penn Warren’s friend and fellow poet, Allen Tate, confided to him that he considered “Birth of Love” one of his favorite poems by Warren. In fact, Tate believed “Birth of Love” the best poem of those from the collection in which it was published, even though that book included a string of Warren’s stronger and laudable poems, such as “The Nature of a Mirror,” “Natural History,” “Blow, West Wind,” “I Am Dreaming of a White Christmas: The Natural History of a Vision,” “Rattlesnake Country,” “Stargazing,” and “There’s a Grandfather’s Clock in the Hall.”

Dave Smith—commenting in a chapter on Or Else: Poem/Poems 1968-1974 from Homage to Robert Penn Warren: A Collection of Critical Essays (Logbridge-Rhodes, Inc., 1981), edited by Frank Graziano—perceptively advises readers how to approach and understand Robert Penn Warren’s tactics in the composition of his works:

Warren has long considered that it is the responsibility of a poem and of a collection of poems (indeed, in Or Else, he blurs the distinction) to discover coherent meaning. Yet he believes that meaning is dynamic, not static: it shifts constantly, is altered by circumstance and perspective, and needs continual re-focusing. His poems are constructed as tentative, necessarily pragmatic lenses employed not just to see reality but to dramatically experience it while within the drama the intelligence is allowed to sift and comment. Such a poetry places crucial dependence on the image, but the image does not constitute the poetry. If the image is actual experience, whether resurrected from memory or created out of the imagination’s whole cloth, he must still create a form which will tease out the luminous, usually refracted meaning of the image. His construction of the tale causes the image to become the mind’s stepping stones through time and space. But Warren makes a distinction between what we might call the lower and the higher image. The lower image is the literal thing pointed at by words in the line by line movement of the poem. The higher image is the figurative, form-embodied vision that the tale represents.


As readers encounter “Birth of Love,” the narrator elevates a simple situation during which he imaginatively envisions a man watching his lover leave a pond where the two had been swimming. The man delights in her physical beauty, even as it has been altered by time, and he discovers the extent of his love for her. By the close of the poem the language, which had begun with detailed description of the various elements in its setting, literally and figuratively reaches extreme heights in the described scenery of a distant mountain or the first far star of nightfall and in the suggested emotional state of his desire for the woman.


BIRTH OF LOVE

Season late, day late, sun just down, and the sky
Cold gunmetal but with a wash of live rose, and she,
From water the color of sky except where
Her motion has fractured it to shivering splinters of silver,
Rises. Stands on the raw grass. Against
The new-curdling night of spruces, nakedness
Glimmers and, at bosom and flank, drips
With fluent silver. The man,

Some ten strokes out, but now hanging
Motionless in the gunmetal water, feet
Cold with the coldness of depth, all
History dissolving from him, is
Nothing but an eye. Is an eye only. Sees

The body that is marked by his use, and Time’s,
Rise, and in the abrupt and unsustaining element of air,
Sway, lean, grapple the pond-bank. Sees
How, with that posture of female awkwardness that is,
And is the stab of, suddenly perceived grace, breasts bulge down in
The pure curve of their weight and buttocks
Moon up and, in swelling unity,
Are silver and glimmer. Then

The body is erect, she is herself, whatever
Self she may be, and with an end of the towel grasped in each hand,
Slowly draws it back and forth across back and buttocks, but
With face lifted toward the high sky, where
The over-wash of rose color now fails. Fails, though no star
Yet throbs there. The towel, forgotten,
Does not move now. The gaze
Remains fixed on the sky. The body,

Profiled against the darkness of spruces, seems
To draw to itself, and condense in its whiteness, what light
In the sky yet lingers or, from
The metallic and abstract severity of water, lifts. The body,
With the towel now trailing loose from one hand, is
A white stalk from which the face flowers gravely toward the high sky.
This moment is non-sequential and absolute, and admits
Of no definition, for it
Subsumes all other, and sequential, moments, by which
Definition might be possible. The woman,

Face yet raised, wraps,
With a motion as though standing in sleep,
The towel about her body, under her breasts, and,
Holding it there hieratic as lost Egypt and erect,
Moves up the path that, stair-steep, winds
Into the clamber and tangle of growth. Beyond
The lattice of dusk-dripping leaves, whiteness
Dimly glimmers, goes. Glimmers and is gone, and the man,

Suspended in his darkling medium, stares
Upward where, though not visible, he knows
She moves, and in his heart he cries out that, if only
He had such strength, he would put his hand forth
And maintain it over her to guard, in all
Her out-goings and in-comings, from whatever
Inclemency of sky or slur of the world’s weather
Might ever be. In his heart
he cries out. Above

Height of the spruce-night and heave of the far mountain, he sees
The first star pulse into being. It gleams there.

I do not know what promise it makes him.

—Robert Penn Warren


Readers also are invited to view previous posts at “One Poet’s Notes” concerning Robert Penn Warren and Dave Smith: “Robert Penn Warren: ‘The Nature of a Mirror,’” which includes a link to an audio of the poet reading his poem, and “Dave Smith: Little Boats, Unsalvaged.”

2 comments:

nana said...

Very impressive.The beauty of the poem can be vey pure. I like the poem.

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