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

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

W.S. Merwin Wins Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

Yesterday afternoon when the 2009 Pulitzer Prizes were announced and W.S. Merwin was named as the winner in poetry for The Shadow of Sirius, published by Copper Canyon Press, the honor marked Merwin’s second time receiving the award. Immediately, I was reminded of this poet’s first Pulitzer-Prize-winning volume, The Carrier of Ladders (1970), and I recalled my own beginnings as a poet. In 1970, as a college freshman attending my first creative writing class, I was enjoying the thrill of discovery with each new poet’s work I read, and I was eager to encounter poems that presented different understandings in the use of the line, especially those examples containing novel approaches to free verse. Merwin’s deliberate blending of lines through thoughts and phrases tied to one another without punctuation seemed to test one’s notions of both sentence and sense, placing greater burden on the poet’s chosen words and demanding increased attention to the language by the reader.

W.S. Merwin, like many of his contemporaries, at first had published formal works with intricately knotted and ornate sentences in rhyming poetry, as evidenced in his initial collection, A Mask for Janus, which had been selected by W.H.Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Award in 1952, when Merwin was only 24. Just as a number of other poets at the time eventually made the transition to the more open form of free verse during the 1960s, Merwin moved to his distinctive style of writing.

When asked by Daniel Bourne in an interview for Artful Dodge about his decision to adopt an absence of punctuation as a method of writing poems, Merwin responded: “I was trying to do things that I suppose poets always try to do. I was trying to write more directly, and in that sense more simply. One of the ironies of that was there were critics who immediately and for a long time called poetry hopelessly obscure. They thought it was simply willfully obscure and that I was trying to write incomprehensible poetry. I was really trying to make it more direct but at the same time more inclusive, to make it contain more experience and to transmit it more directly in words and do it in a way that carried more of the cadences of pure language, of speech.”

Since I was living in New York and working in Manhattan during my undergraduate and graduate years at Brooklyn College, I often had opportunities to attend poetry readings in the region, including a number of presentations given by W.S. Merwin at various locations around the city. Indeed, my introduction to the sound of his voice, offering the pauses and emphases not evident in the unpunctuated lines on the page, occurred at a reading he delivered in the intimate setting of the Gotham Book Mart.

As enjoyable as it was listening to the poet smoothly read his own work, I realized the tension on the page created by sentences running up against one another in the printed form sometimes actually increased opportunities for ambiguity and, at times, multiple rhythms. Merwin’s innovative line breaks witnessed on the page also frequently disappeared when the words of the poem were heard read aloud, lessening the surprise I experienced when following the poem’s progress down the page.

Therefore, impressed by the possibilities of W.S. Merwin’s experiment with form in his poetry’s written state, I employed similar techniques in my premiere book of poems, Along the Dark Shore (BOA Editions), where evidence of Merwin’s influence clearly exists. I delighted in the form’s ability to create lines and sentences that might be read differently with each effort by a reader, creating a variety of interpretations or differing degrees of significance due to alterations of stress and fluctuations of rhythm.

Perhaps Stanley Plumly—in “Dirty Silence,” a chapter from his book of criticism, Argument & Song: Sources & Silences in Poetry (Handsel Books, 2003)—advances the best expression of the manner with which Merwin playfully engages readers’ expectations of line, sentence, and punctuation:

“That remarkable tension between how and why, the lyric and the dramatic, between lingering and needing to go on, between the horizontal rhythm of the line and the vertical rhythm of the story, with the balance always favoring the movement down, is what gives free verse its gravitational authority. The verse itself, the lyricism, lives in the phrase, the clause, while the freedom lives in that language that completes the sentence, that extends and connects it to the next. (W.S. Merwin, for example, a poet who has played with the abridgment of the line and the syntax of the sentence better than any of his contemporaries, writes of ‘St. Vincent’s’ that ‘its bricks by day a French red under / cross facing south / blown-up neoclassic facades the tall / dark openings between columns at / the dawn of history / exploded into many windows / in a mortised face.’ The line breaks are intended to excite as much as complicate the differences between ending, enjambment, and continuing—to make us move swiftly through the emphasis of phrase to the total structure of the stanza. The tension between breaking and entering the new line is supported by the need to go on, to complete, to make whole: a whole thought, a whole perception.) In that growth lies the dramatic voice, the voice unwilling to simply sing, but nevertheless demanding to be well heard. Yet a voice not simply speech. In the achieved free-verse poem we hear the formalization of a process, as well as a progress: we hear form itself, as an idiosyncratic language, being achieved. And the form speaks, in its dialectic of poetry against itself.”


Thinking of rain clouds that rose over the city
on the first day of the year

in the same month
I consider that I have lived daily and with

eyes open and ears to hear
these years across from St Vincent’s Hospital
above whose roof those clouds rose

its bricks by day a French red under
cross facing south
blown-up neo-classic facades the tall
dark openings between columns at
the dawn of history
exploded into many windows
in a mortised face

inside it the ambulances have unloaded
after sirens’ howling nearer through traffic on
Seventh Avenue long
ago I learned not to hear them
even when the sirens stop

they turn to back in
few passers-by stay to look
and neither do I

at night two long blue
windows and one short one on the top floor
burn all night
many nights when most of the others are out
on what floor do they have

I have seen the building drift moonlit through geraniums
late at night when trucks were few
moon just past the full
upper windows parts of the sky
as long as I looked
I watched it at Christmas and New Year
early in the morning I have seen the nurses ray out through
arterial streets
in the evening have noticed internes blocks away
on doorsteps one foot in the door

I have come upon the men in gloves taking out
the garbage at all hours
piling up mountains of
plastic bags white strata with green intermingled and
I have seen one pile
catch fire and studied the cloud
at the ends of the jets of the hoses
the fire engines as near as that
red beacons and
machine-throb heard by the whole body
I have noticed molded containers stacked outside
a delivery entrance on Twelfth Street
whether meals from a meal factory made up with those
mummified for long journeys by plane
or specimens for laboratory
examination sealed at the prescribed temperatures
either way closed delivery

and approached faces staring from above
crutches or tubular clamps
out for tentative walks
have paused for turtling wheel-chairs
heard visitors talking in wind on each corner
while the lights changed and
hot dogs were handed over at the curb
in the middle of afternoon
mustard ketchup onions and relish
and police smelling of ether and laundry
were going back

and I have known them all less than the papers of our days
smoke rises from the chimneys do they have an incinerator
what for
how warm do they believe they have to maintain the air
in there
several of the windows appear
to be made of tin
but it may be the light reflected

I have imagined bees coming and going
on those sills though I have never seen them

who was St Vincent

—W.S. Merwin

W.S. Merwin has published nearly two dozen collections of poetry and twenty books of translation, as well as numerous plays and books of prose. In addition to the two Pulitzer Prizes, Merwin also has won the National Book Award for Migration: New and Selected Poems, published in 2005. Furthermore, he has received the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry, the Bollingen Prize, a Ford Foundation grant, the Governor's Award for Literature of the State of Hawaii, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Harriet Monroe Award, the PEN Translation Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Wallace Stevens Award, a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, the Tanning Prize, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation. W.S. Merwin is a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and has served as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress.

[Readers also are invited to visit a previous post on “One Poet’s Notes” concerning Stanley Plumly, “The Morning America Changed.”]


Bruce Oksol said...

Of all the poems you could have chosen, this was very, very nice. I immediately thought of Edna St Vincent Millay -- her middle name is named after....well, you know the story. Mr Merwin's poem would not have had the same emotional impact without the memories I have of ESVM. Wow.

sexy said...
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