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, April 18, 2010

Alexander Long: Remembering Larry Levis with Philip Levine

The new issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review (Spring/Summer 2010: Volume XI, Number 2) released this week includes a special item, Alexander Long’s essay, “Lunch with Larry,” that recounts a visit with Philip Levine during which the two reminisce about Larry Levis. The personality and poetry of Larry Levis is recalled throughout the essay, and Long even reports on a brief trip led by Levine to Levis’s family farm, the site of the poet’s upbringing and the source for a number of his best known poems, some of which I have discussed in a previous post at “One Poet’s Notes” titled “Larry Levis: Passion Matters,” as well as in an extended essay on Larry Levis's poetry, "To Recover the Poet: Larry Levis’s Elegy, The Selected Levis, and The Gazer Within," that appeared in the Fall/Winter 2001-2002 issue of VPR (Volume III, Number 1) and which also was reprinted as a slightly different version that appeared in the Fall 2004 (Volume 3, Number 2) issue of Blackbird.

Alexander Long recollects visiting with Philip Levine:

I offer what follows years after it’s happened and may happen again.

In July 2004, I’d flown from Philadelphia to Santa Barbara to visit my former teacher and friend Chris Buckley. My purpose was to tend to the silver cats Cecil and Lizzie, while Chris and his wife Nadya traveled abroad. My stay would also afford me seven weeks of solitary confinement to write what became a large portion of my dissertation on the work of Philip Levine and Larry Levis. Those were important weeks, though at the time I couldn’t grasp just how necessary and rich that solitude was.

By August, only four weeks in, I’d grown sufficiently mad and occasionally brave. One evening, I called Philip Levine. Since I was “in the area,” I wondered if I could take a drive and meet for lunch. “In the area?,” I remember Phil saying on the phone. “Sure, sure come on up,” Levine said. “And call me Phil.”

I remember the sun and the heat from the sun, August-in-The-San-Joaquin-Valley heat. I remember being nearly broke, a paltry $23.04 in my checking account. I still have the ATM receipt. August 13, 2004. I remember the four-hour drive from Lompoc to Fresno. I remember wondering if I’d make it, when — not if — I’d run out of gas somewhere on the outskirts of the Mojave. I remember thinking if I got to the Levines’ house I’d sit in the car for awhile, consider not getting out, then not ever get out. Turn around and bag the whole thing.

I did get out of the car, and I did knock on the Levines’ door. But before I knocked, I told myself to remember the tall eucalyptus in their front yard, the shade it offered, and how certain patches of their lawn resembled golfing greens, only tanner and smoother, like suede. I remember being hit, again, by Larry’s poem “Some Grass along a Ditch”:

. . . . I don’t know what happens to grass.
. . . . But it doesn’t die, exactly.
. . . . It turns white, in winter, but stays there,
. . . . A few yards from the ditch,
. . . . Then comes back in March,
. . . . Turning a green that has nothing
. . . . To do with us.

Larry’s lines came to me as naturally as smoke to light. I didn’t summon them. They just came, rose. I’ve wondered since if I was moving my lips then, and if I was how disturbed I must’ve looked to the neighbors on the street, to the Levines inside.

I knocked on the door. Phil’s wife Franny answered. “You must be Alex,” she said. She was beaming, but I’ve learned since that Franny beams; it’s her thing: genuine, welcoming.

“Phil’s just gotten back from the gym. He’s lying down. Come, come. Come in,” Franny said. As she walked into the kitchen, her voice faded: “Phil, Alex is here….”

It was noon by now, and there was a stranger heat inside. “By noon,” Larry writes in Black Freckles, “it is ninety-nine degrees.” But there wasn’t the sun to blame anymore. The heat felt like muggy fog walked through and breathed in, only thicker. This new heat was everywhere because it was only within me, and everywhere it was gauze I could not entirely see through. Whenever I moved, I could feel a little less of me. I was, in some important ways, turning into someone else. Even then, I could intuit that much. I was gratefully frightened.

Phil came out from around a hallway wearing a white T-shirt maybe a size too big and blue sweatpants. He had these white New Balance running shoes on that looked brand new. He moved slowly, a kind of slowness that runners have after a workout: that oddly necessary mixture of ache with relief. I was struck by his height. On a good day, I’m six feet, and Phil seemed taller.

“Hello,” he said. I don’t remember what I said. I jingled some coins in my pockets, both pockets, and I was immediately reminded of the $23.04 in my checking account. Here I was, in Phil Levine’s house, I’d traveled nearly three thousand miles to get there, now standing before him, and all I could think of was the $23.04.

Phil said “Hello” again and kept his hand held out. I’ve wondered since how long we stood there, Phil waiting for a response, any response. Me standing there but not quite there at all. . . .

[Visitors are encouraged to read the rest of Alexander Long’s essay, “Lunch with Larry.”]


Short Poems said...

Great post, you have nice blog :)

Joelle Biele said...

Thanks so much for this wonderful piece!

richard k bloom said...

A very nice piece. I am reading him now, again, maybe starting to get his meanings a little more.
I like your voyage, your trip to the ranch, the talk around the table with phil and friends. And the pen.

Blogger said...

Did you know you can shorten your urls with Shortest and receive money from every click on your short links.