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, October 10, 2010

Library Tour

In a recent post on my wife’s blog, One Autism Mom’s Notes, she wrote about the regular trips she takes to the local library with our son on Saturdays. In reporting Alex’s enjoyment when visiting the library and his love of books, she suggested he inherited these characteristics from his parents. Pam’s comments caused me to remember the pleasure I experienced—similar to that expressed in the Edward Hirsch poem above—when as a young boy I obtained my first library card and could carry home new volumes to read each week. I recall the librarian frequently commenting upon the weighty tomes I’d cradle in my arms as I approached the checkout counter, wondering how such a small boy could manage those big books.

As I grew older, like the “book-drunk boy” in the Tobias Wolff novel, Old School, I searched for a more perfect atmosphere for engaging literature. I would make regular journeys by subway to the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, a building that seemed so solemn and stately with its impressive architecture and majestic rooms. Each time my footsteps echoed through the marbled main hallway, I felt as if I had been granted access to a haven, isolated from the traffic and troubles in the city streets just outside a high arching window. My appreciation for libraries as portals to faraway places and sanctuaries for study continued through my years as an undergraduate developing an interest in writing, who found favorite locations in the quiet corners of the university library for composing those initial poems and essays that would begin a lifelong practice.

Not surprisingly, upon graduation I obtained a job at the fabled New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, where I’d spend summer lunch hours reading on the front steps between the pair of statuary lions guarding the entrance. In winter months, I’d study and write lines of poetry in one of the library’s elegant reading rooms. I especially appreciated having an opportunity to be surrounded by so many books each morning as I arrived at work or when I walked through the multiple-storied stacks of books that extended behind the scenes for a city block, although I also started to feel sadness upon realization that it would be impossible to read every book I desired to investigate, even if I devoted myself to the task for an entire lifetime.

Perhaps one of the delights I attained by visiting libraries came as a consequence of the contrast I found between those rooms filled with stacks of shelves stuffed with books and the lack of many books in my own home when I was young. My parents were hard-working individuals who never had the chance to attend college and hadn’t developed a habit of reading novels or works of nonfiction. In our Brooklyn apartment, as in those of many of my friends and classmates, books were considered a luxury. Indeed, some parents believed all the everyday information one needed could be seen in the daily newspaper, such as the night-owl edition of the Daily News or Mirror my father brought home every evening so that he could quickly catch up on the latest sports scores and examine with me the horse racing section for the Total Mutual Handle numbers at the track he’d bet each morning through his “bookie,” usually using the numbers of our street address, in those days before lotteries were legalized.

Consequently, although my mother and father strongly encouraged my love of reading and openly expressed pride over my academic achievements, there were few books in our house during my youth. Indeed, I still recall the day my mother purchased an encyclopedia set of volumes and a huge dictionary with golden binding from a door-to-door salesman. I also remember the series of books about World War II my father, a veteran of the war, once brought home that chronicled, through journalistic prose and dramatic photographs, the various significant battles in the European and Pacific theaters of conflict. The lone bookcase housing those collections, positioned beside my father’s console stereo that was even larger, became the center of my interest for many years. I actually initiated a project of learning by moving through the encyclopedia alphabetically, and I became one of the youngest experts on the tactics of warfare from my chronological study of the illustrated history of the war years.

In contrast, over the years Pam and I have accumulated an extensive library of our own, as at least a couple thousand books fill spaces in nearly every room on each of the three floors of our house. In fact, many of our bookshelves are spilling over (including a shelf bookended by replicas of the famous New York Public Library lions), and one large room exists as a library with floor to ceiling shelves lining all the walls. Additionally, at the university, my office shelves also overflow with another thousand assorted volumes of poetry, novels, or nonfiction books.

As I have written elsewhere and chronicled in a poem titled “Hyperlexia,” Alex somehow taught himself to recognize writing and to read before he could even walk. Hyperlexia is sometimes defined as “advanced word-recognition skills in individuals who otherwise have pronounced cognitive, social, and linguistic handicaps.” The first indication of Alex’s talent happened when he was still in a playpen by the living room. Pam and I were watching television, and during a commercial we heard a voice speak the words “Visa,” “Mastercard,” “American Express.” We looked at one another then turned toward the playpen, where Alex was holding on to the side rail and peeking through the netting at the television. Sure enough, in the corner of the commercial on the screen, those words appeared, informing viewers about the avenues available for purchasing the advertised product. However, nobody in the commercial had spoken the words; Alex had decoded and verbalized them on his own.

When we realized, early in his childhood, the great delight our son gets from reading, we were pleased Alex has been raised in an environment that appears ideal for his innate love of books and his appetite for reading that never seems sated. We acknowledged his curiosity and absorption of the written word mirrored our own, since Pam also had been a precocious early reader. At the time, we were unaware that hyperlexia sometimes exists as a symptom accompanying autism. Still, when Alex was later diagnosed with autism and his verbal skills were greatly delayed, his hyperlexia allowed us to teach him spoken language through signs Pam had cleverly written and placed on objects around the house or used as flash cards to aid in his speech therapy. In other instances, when Alex was frustrated because we couldn’t understand words he was trying to communicate to us, we would ask him to clarify the situation by spelling or typing the words.

Yesterday, after Pam, Alex, and I attended an orchestra concert at the Valparaiso University Chapel, Pam suggested we tour the campus library built in recent years, since she and Alex had not yet been inside. As I guided them through the library, I again noticed the changes that have occurred since those first years when I visited libraries—the digital catalog, the many tables and booths with computer stations, the video section, the gourmet coffee shop, etc. Nevertheless, as Alex’s heavy footsteps echoed off the marble floor, and he gazed with curiosity or awe at the stacks of books all around him, I could still hear my own tentative steps decades ago, and I once more felt the pleasure of being in a library.

1 comment:

Maureen said...

Such a charming animation of the Hirsch poem.

Your post is a delight to read and puts me in mind again of all the many days my only, now 22, and I haunted the library stacks. That he inherited my love of books and reading makes me proud.

Our public libraries here in Arlington, Va., have changed so much, the shelves of books now replaced by empty jewel boxes for CDs and functional, if somewhat antiquated, computers. I'm glad to have the Library of Congress nearby, and I made a special point of visiting the NYPL when I was in the city a few months ago. Within these places all the books hold special meaning.