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

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Diane Lockward on Barbara Crooker's RADIANCE

One of Barbara Crooker’s poems, “Vegetable Love,” is featured today at Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Amanac, where visitors can hear Keillor’s excellent reading of the poem. “Vegetable Love” appeared in Crooker’s collection of poems titled Radiance (Word Press, 2005), which was reviewed by Diane Lockward in the Spring/Summer 2006 issue (Volume VII, Number 2) of Valparaiso Poetry Review. At the time, Lockward wrote about “Vegetable Love”:

“Vegetable Love,” a praise poem written in language as lush as the garden it describes, comes alive with its figures. Carrots become “gold mined from the earth’s tight purse,” zucchini are “green torpedoes,” beets are “the dark blood of the earth,” and peas rest “in their delicate slippers, / little green boats, a string of beads.” Personification infuses additional life into this garden. Basil is “nuzzled / by fumbling bees drunk on the sun,” while leaves are busy “passing secrets and gossip, making assignations.” All are “earth’s voluptuaries.”

Consequently, this also seems like a perfect time to remind readers of Lockward’s complete commentary on Barbara Crooker’s volume of poems.

Barbara Crooker: Radiance

While Radiance is Barbara Crooker’s first full-length book, it is clearly the work of a seasoned poet who has done the hard work of mastering her craft. Crooker writes in free verse that proves T. S. Eliot’s contention that vers libre is not free at all to the poet “who wants to do a good job.” This poet knows how to make poetry sing. And she knows how to arrange individual poems into a single work of art as unified and stunning as the painting that graces the cover of her book.

Crooker skillfully divides her fifty poems into six sections. In each of the first four sections, a season of the year serves as a subtle backdrop to the various themes which dance their way throughout the book. This structure creates an underlying tension between background and foreground; as the seasons, beginning with fall, move chronologically forward, the poet creates a counter-movement by shifting back and forth in time. The last two sections focus on the seasons of a woman’s life. Here, too, the poet moves back and forth between the past and present, mixing poems about adolescence with others about marriage, motherhood, and menopause. The collection gains an additional layer of complexity with the ongoing alternation between darkness and light, grief and joy.

Time functions not only as part of the structural plan but also as theme. Crooker keeps us constantly aware of the presence of Time. In “Quiscalus Quiscula” the speaker, observing grackles, asks, “Is the purpose for their darkness to fly against / the dogwoods, remind us that night is always / bearing down? Time beats its blueblack wings. . . .” A number of poems look backward to more carefree days of innocence. In “The Fifties” “Time was a jarful of pennies” as the speaker and her young friends cut out paper dolls. In “Junior High, Home Economics” these girls “couldn’t imagine a future that didn’t fit / the pattern, thought there was nothing / [they] couldn’t alter, darn, or patch, / somehow make right.” Interspersed among such poems are those in which the mature speaker confronts the hard times adulthood brings—the death of a daughter at birth, a son with autism, an aging and ailing mother. By strategically staggering the poems, the poet wisely sacrifices narrative development and gains dramatic irony. To the poems of innocence, the reader brings a knowledge the young speaker did not have: the mature speaker will experience childbirth and come to know that children are sometimes as fragile as those paper dolls she once played with. 

As Crooker plays past and present off each other, she also moves back and forth between two worlds. There’s the world of home with its domestic concerns of cooking, cleaning, raising children, loving her husband. While this is clearly a place of much joy, it is also a place of grief and restrictions . . . .

[Readers are urged to examine the rest of the review at Valparaiso Poetry Review, and all are invited to check the VPR Author Archives for a number of fine poems by both Barbara Crooker and Diane Lockward that have appeared in past issues of Valparaiso Poetry Review.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I may be buying this book, presently. Excellent review.