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, November 16, 2009

Complementary Characteristics of Critical Classrooms and Creative Workshops

Last week, I was invited to attend a creative-writing class taught by one of my colleagues, Susanna Childress, the talented poet and an inspiring instructor. As preparation for the visit, most of the students had read a handful of poems copied from a couple of my earlier books. In addition, a pair of graduate students had carefully examined the contents of the books and designed a series of perceptive questions, which would be asked of me as an interview within the class period.

I enjoyed discussing the topics raised during this process, particularly those issues concerning the choices I’d made in the various stages of inspiration, composition, revision, and publication. As the students posed their questions about these areas of interest, I was reminded of an essay I had read only a few days before in the current issue (December 2009: Volume 42, Number 3) of The Writer’s Chronicle. The article, “Out of the Margins: The Expanding Role of Creative Writing in Today’s College Curriculum” by Chad Davidson and Gregory Fraser, included a number of acute observations about the increased influence of creative-writing courses not only on apprentice writers in workshops, but also on students of literature in English departments.

As the authors remark, a large portion of students studying creative writing “elect to major in English, where classes tend to focus on literary history and the making of criticism.” Likewise, many English majors investigating different eras of literary history have decided to add creative-writing courses among the electives they take. Consequently, Davidson and Fraser suggest today’s students have begun to blend the distinct critical approaches taught in literature courses with the close scrutiny and inquiry involved in creative-writing workshops. The article explains that students exposed to theories of critical analysis—“new historicism, neo-Marxism, post-feminism, psychoanalysis, deconstructionism, and related interpretive approaches”—in literature courses find classes in creative writing “foreground the act of close reading.”

Furthermore, the authors describe creative-writing workshops as “laboratories in which students test their comprehension and presentation of language, with the frequent consequence that emerging creative writers develop a nuanced sense of language and its arrangement as rich signifiers of meaning. Creative-writing classes require scrupulous attention to a range of textual clues: stray connotations, sound textures, and all other extra-denotative factors. Students learn to approach the craft of writing as if it were sculpture, where language becomes concretized. They also learn to pay keen-eyed attention to the submissions of their workshop peers. This type of close scrutiny excites at the textual level, as practitioners learn to travel ‘inside’ language in pleasurable ways. And such discoveries prove beneficial not only in creative development but also in the arena of critical writing—especially in the act of locating textual phenomena that might remain invisible to many other students.”

Just as the sisters depicted in the Giorgio de Chirico painting above appear to display opposing characteristics, the two kinds of classes—critical and creative—frequently seem on the surface at odds in their tactics for reading literature. Yet, Davidson and Fraser applaud the contributions of each, and they urge a mixture of the methods: “Instead of validating an ‘either-or’ logic—where creative writers cordon themselves off from other disciplines—writers today increasingly adopt a ‘both-and’ mentality that encourages border crossings and cultural exchanges. How creative-writing courses may in turn influence and re-imagine the critical setting, however, has received less attention. The terms ‘creative’ and ‘critical,’ in fact, need not represent a binary within the academy. The schism can be overcome, the gap closed.”

Indeed, early in their essay, the authors advise such interaction between creative writing and other disciplines within the university’s arts and sciences can be a healthy development arising from the proliferation of creative writing programs: “Creative-writing teachers and students have begun to think increasingly in terms of cross-fertilizations between disciplines. Instead of seeing creative and critical classrooms as polar opposites, practicing writers and teachers of writing have begun to test out hybrid learning styles that draw on the strengths of varying discourses.”

My classroom conversation with the students in the creative-writing workshop I visited confirmed the connections between writing and other forms of art, as we regarded the influence of music and painting on my poetry, or I spoke about how some knowledge of sciences like geology or meteorology might lead to enhanced descriptions of nature. I also explained how specific words had been chosen for their connotative associations, phrases for their contributions to rhythm, or personal preferences of line lengths and breaks for their ability to supply a lyrical tone.

In addition, upon investigation of formal decisions and discussions about my experimentation with different styles, or appraisal of poets’ concerns about organization of manuscripts for publication, the students and I focused on an array of aspects to writing that most likely would not be primary items for study in a literature course. Our casual conversation delightfully highlighted for me a combined look at literature and the process of writing that I’ve seen reflected as well lately by students in the period courses of literature I also teach.

In fact, the opportunity for students in our English department to select a major or minor in creative writing has been a rather recent development. Nevertheless, in the years since such options have been available, and as the enrollment in creative-writing courses has increased, I have noticed some of the complementary characteristics of courses in literary criticism and workshops in creative writing evidenced in students’ classroom consideration of texts or seeping into the composition of term papers.

After I finished my stint as a guest speaker for Susanna’s creative-writing workshop, I started to think of the lesson plan for my literature course the following day, and I realized again how much my lectures in such classes also are influenced, usually subconsciously, by my awareness of the writing process and my teaching of creative-writing courses, particularly as I regularly emphasize that students ought to attempt an additional reading of works from the author’s perspective, especially conscious of the choices made or possibly rejected during the creation of the work.

I concluded, as the authors do in The Writer’s Chronicle article, that the crossover of coursework in the curriculum by English majors and creative writers has served to benefit all. As Chad Davidson and Gregory Fraser write: “creative-writing workshops, because they tend to be text-based and focus primarily on student-generated work, complement largely context-based critical classrooms. Ultimately, for the students and teachers of such hybrid learning practices and pedagogies, the marriage of writing workshops with critical coursework offers a ‘win-win’ situation.”

1 comment:

Marinela said...

Very delightful read :) :)