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, May 4, 2009

Gregg Hertzlieb on Frederic Edwin Church

Frederic Edwin Church was born in Hartford, Connecticut on this date (May 4) in 1826. In recognition of this and in appreciation of the various contributions to VPR by Gregg Hertzlieb in all of the journal’s volumes since 2001, I invite readers to revisit a commentary on Church and his painting, Mountain Landscape, written by Hertzlieb with the eyes of an artist and in the language of a poet, which first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2008 issue (Volume IX, Number 2) of Valparaiso Poetry Review.


Frederic Edwin Church, one of the most important artists of the Hudson River School, is represented in the Brauer Museum of Art’s collection by a small, beautiful oil on canvas painting that Percy Sloan donated to Valparaiso University in 1953. Sloan purchased the painting for his own collection from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1950 and shortly after donated it to VU, along with approximately four hundred other works of art, many by his father Junius R. Sloan (1827-1900) who himself was a Hudson River School painter and who was influenced and inspired by Church’s skilled example. Today, the Brauer’s Church is one of the museum’s most beloved pieces, impressing viewers with its luminous treatment of its landscape subject.

Although resembling other paintings in the artist’s body of work, Church’s Mountain Landscape is a studio creation, where the artist relied on his recollections of geographical details, primarily in southern Vermont where the artist traveled in the mid 1800s, to compose the scene. Such studio creations were common among Hudson River School painters who, full of inspiration from the majestic American landscape and their experiences and observations there, were moved to record their sensations even when not in the direct presence of such grandeur. Hudson River School works reflect the remarkable vastness of the nineteenth century American landscape, unfolding in such a picturesque manner that artists who sought to capture this spirit and scale thought that the landscape must be a divine gift, with the presence of God seen in, for example, the glowing skies and dynamic configurations of mountains, valleys, and bodies of water.

This particular painting is difficult to photograph, since dark tones and shaded areas in the actual work scintillate with touches of applied color and passages of scumbled oil paint. The glowing oranges in the sky and on the mountain face contrast with the darkness in the clouds, leading the viewer to feel that evening approaches as the sun lights the sky and land almost from within. The painting seems to exude a rosy light that reaches out to the viewer as he bends forward to examine the surface. The orange and rose light does appear in photographic reproduction but does not seem to have the depth, the complexity that one sees in the actual piece. A small painting, lovingly created by an artist assured in his skill and wishing to capture on a small scale the sense of heavenly light that impressed him in the field, is a gesture of communication between the insightful Church and viewers young and old who can marvel at the treatment of light and visual textures.

In this studio creation, the artist capably accomplishes a visual rhyme between the natural rhythms and patterns in active brushwork and the surface textures of the various natural elements. The writhing of the tree in the lower right, upon close inspection, emerges from the free style of paint application. Through experience and careful seeing, Church becomes a force of nature, allowing his understanding of natural contours and details to guide his hand in representing organic subjects. The Hudson River Valley fills the artist’s heart and mind with inspiration, so that he can transcribe all those elements of fascination, filtered through the particular and unique characteristics of the medium he chooses to use. The painting, then, becomes an object of devotion for the faithful figures constituting this school or movement in art. To perceive and appreciate is only part of the equation; to celebrate through pictorial invention completes it so that viewers learn to see, for example, the dramatically lit sky and think that perhaps something greater than man inhabits and infuses this place, revealing Himself on occasion in ways for which words seem inadequate.

Within this rich natural setting, a figure sits in a boat on a lake. He is dwarfed by the enormity of his surroundings. Perhaps the imaginary boater is overwhelmed or afraid, set in such a vast space. Perhaps, though, he finds the appearance of the land and sky to be striking. Perhaps the painting becomes a portal or device of teleportation, where the artist has enabled viewers, through their close viewing, to enter the picture and become the tiny boater. Floating in this environment where paint magically forms the textures of rocks, trees, and water, the viewer realizes the magnitude of the beauty that surrounds him, and that is available to him. An appreciation of this piece seems linked to a feeling of thankfulness for the artist’s sensitivity and skill, for the American landscape, and for the Maker that speaks through Church and that drives his eye and hand.

—Gregg Hertzlieb

Gregg Hertzlieb regularly contributes engaging and enlightening art commentary for Valparaiso Poetry Review, and he serves as Director of the Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University. Hertzlieb is the editor of the books The Calumet Region: An American Place (Photographs by Gary Cialdella), published in 2009, and Domestic Vision: Twenty-Five Years of the Art of Joel Sheesley (2008), as well as a contributor to The Indiana Dunes Revealed: The Art of Frank V. Dudley (2006). He has been awarded the Edward L. Ryerson Traveling Fellowship by the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and a Conant Writing Award for Poetry from Millikin University. His artwork has been exhibited widely, including at the Aron Packer Gallery, August House Studio, the Central School of Art and Design in London, Columbia College, Elgin Community College, the Goodman Theater, and Struve Gallery.

Valparaiso Poetry Review has been fortunate to be able to feature Gregg Hertzlieb’s writings or art in numerous issues of the journal. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to urge visitors to examine the journal archives of Valparaiso Poetry Review and to explore all of Hertzlieb’s essays on works by various artists—including John James Audubon, Robert Cottingham, Stuart Davis, Helen Frankenthaler, David Hockney, Ed Paschke, Paul Sierra, and others—that have appeared as covers for VPR over the years. Gregg Hertzlieb’s own artwork, Fare, with accompanying commentary appears in the Spring Summer 2005 issue (Volume VI, Number 2) of Valparaiso Poetry Review. In addition, an example of Hertzlieb’s poetry, “Scraper,” can be found in the Fall/Winter 2001-2002 issue (Volume III, Number 2) of VPR.


Diana Manister said...

Ed, this is a nice meditation on Church's sublime landscape painting; however, you reference only American art in connection with the work.

These great American vistas are in the tradition of English Romanticism in literature. For example, Wordsworth's Prelude to the Lyrical Ballads features a lone figure in a rowboat feeling overwhelmed by the mountains around him. Nature as a source of spiritual inspiration did not originate in America.

Edward Byrne said...

Hi, Diana:

You are correct about the tradition of nature as a source of inspiration evident in English Romantic literature. In his commentary about the direct influences on Church, I don't believe Gregg was suggesting such thinking began in America or was exclusive to this country, nor have I.

Indeed, I have written of this many times on the blog and elsewhere. In fact, I have previously mentioned this specifically in relation to Church as well. In a "One Poet's Notes" post from last year, I commented:

"The reverence with which Church approached the human presence among elements of nature’s terrain appropriately reflected similar attitudes revealed in the literature introduced by nineteenth-century Romantic poets who frequently wished to engender an attitude of awe in their readers towards a sacred nature."

You can find that entry at the following:http://edwardbyrne.blogspot.com/2008/05/frederic-edwin-church-mountain.html