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 23, 2009

Jericho Brown: PLEASE

Hit it!—The Love Song of Jericho Brown’s Please
review by Susanna Childress

Too many times in the past few years I have finished a recently published volume of poetry and put it back on the bookshelf thinking, “Okay, okay, I get it: not only have you suffered but you’re really clever.” Jericho Brown’s Please not only led me away from this begrudging confession but allowed me while reading to become far more aware of the poems than of the poetry. That is, the book seems less a grand endeavor that orchestrates to bring attention to itself as such than a collected set of deliberate, sharply crafted pieces which reflect an unpretentious yet demanding batch of sensibilities—each poem is both gift and plea. Maybe I should put it this way: Brown’s debut volume avoids the self-conciliatory, self-congratulatory tone he might well have taken on, and that’s not because there’s nothing here to mourn or be proud of. The poems are smart and raw, but readers will recognize this as distinct from clever or pitiable, in part because the writer does not ask his readers to recognize them as such. Any insight, any complexity here is the result of intricate tonal and metaphorical maneuvering, crafting, nuance: questioning and requiring all at once, the way the word please is both a desire and a demand.

What makes avoiding self-conciliation and self-congratulation more of a feat is that, among poems that clearly employ personae and others that do so more opaquely, all are to varying degrees and by various means self-referential, and with lesser frequency but equal intensity, reader-referential. Brown opens the book with “Track 1: Lush Life,” a familiar scenario in what might be a jazz club but with such an unfamiliar and pointed analogy as to be applicable to the reader in both an eerie and endearing way:
The woman with the microphone sings to hurt you,
To see you shake your head. The mic may as well
Be a leather belt. You drive to the center of town
To be whipped by a woman’s voice. You can’t tell
The difference between a leather belt and a lover’s
Tongue…. She does not mean to entertain
You, and neither do I. Speak to me in a lover’s tongue—
Call me your bitch, and I’ll sing the whole night long.
Besides the layered tensions of intimacy and violence (readers may gloss over the lover’s tongue as leather belt, and vice-versa, as proverbial jest, but just when we’ve forgotten the literal possibility of such an intersection, it appears, and numerously, in later sections of the volume even while images of unjust beatings—often with belts—show up throughout), we also find the layers of reverence and intimacy as well as the paradox of request and demand as a unified gesture. Additionally, the line, “She does not mean to entertain / You, and neither do I,” does two things: readers are introduced to the speaker within or beyond the second-person point-of-view, which then allows us to recognize the perspective heretofore not as a “Gotcha!” but the complication of both holistic invitation and experiential impossibility, something of a “You think, reader, you can inhabit my world, and though you won’t, fully, ever, let’s go after it anyway—why not?” We understand, too, that this is not a door opened for our use of the poet, a way to be entertained, as Brown puts it. He will not be clever for us, to amuse or to dismay. Instead, the summons is more dangerous: the poet will sing, but readers best prepare themselves for harm, perhaps pleasurable in its torment, but injurious nonetheless . . . .

[Visitors are invited to read the rest of Susanna Childress’s commentary on Please by Jericho Brown, as well as her reviews of other poetry books by Stephanie Brown (Domestic Interior), William Greenway (Everywhere at Once), and Cathy Park Hong (Dance Dance Revolution) in the current issue (Fall/Winter 2009-2010: Volume XI, Number 1) of Valparaiso Poetry Review.]

No comments: