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

Friday, October 29, 2010

Taylor Swift, James Franco, and Poetry

As mentioned at the Poetry Foundation’s blog, Harriet, Taylor Swift has been promoting the benefits of reading and the joy of poetry: “One of the perks of super-stardom is getting total strangers to like what you like. That’s especially cool when star power is used to promote reading, and that’s exactly what music sensation Taylor Swift did when she visited the headquarters of Scholastic Inc. to chat with 200 fawning fans about the awesomeness of books.”

Indeed, as reported by Associated Press, Swift spoke to “about 200 grade-schoolers and middle-schoolers . . . about reading and writing.” The singer has been known for expressing interest in literature and writing during past interviews, and she apparently has been composing her own poetry or song lyrics since she was in middle school. The AP article reports, Swift “shared songwriting tips (imagine you're writing a letter, she advised), childhood reading memories and repeated plugs for books as a path to a better life.”

She also advised the students about the value of books: “You can let little things pass you by, little details. Like, say you're driving down the road and there's just this really beautiful autumn tree and it has these gorgeous orange leaves. You might just let that pass you by if you have never read books that describe how beautiful they are, from somebody else's perspective." Furthermore, Swift spoke of poetry: “I love poetry, because if you get it right, if you put the right rhymes at the right ends of the sentences, you can almost make words bounce off a page.”

Recently, I was invited to speak to middle-school students about reading and writing poetry. As often occurs, I sensed some early resistance by a few of the students who thought poetry had no relevance to their lives. However, after I reminded them that the lyrics of songs on their iPods were similar to lines of poetry, and I listed the elements in common, the interest level increased. When I specifically cited Taylor Swift’s past comments about writing her lyrics, many of the students, especially the females, became more engaged in our conversation. We discussed references like those to Romeo and Juliet or The Scarlet Letter in the song above, and then we followed the way images or themes in Swift's songs are also treated in well-known poems they might encounter in an English class anthology.

No matter which era we consider, connecting song lyrics and popular culture to lines of poems has always been a method to entice students toward reading or composing poetry. Indeed, I was reminded of the intersection of popular music and contemporary culture with poetry in my own life and work Wednesday evening when I gave a poetry reading, during which a few of the poems contained references to Billie Holiday’s songs or borrowed quotes from Bob Dylan and Bob Seger. I also attributed an influence of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" on one of the poems I read.

I continually come across depressing articles detecting a decline in reading and declaring the death of poetry. Yet, I am always delighted by the surprisingly wide readership I find in encountering messages of correspondence and submissions to Valparaiso Poetry Review. Likewise, I enjoyed speaking about the content and style of poems with individuals of differing backgrounds and various ages as I signed books after my poetry reading the other night.

Therefore, I was pleased to see Taylor Swift use her influence to increase the popularity of literature among younger readers, even possibly reinvigorate interest in poetry. When people with high profiles as entertainers in popular culture, such as Swift and James Franco ( below as Allen Ginsberg in the recently released film, Howl), even slightly create a greater sense of appreciation for poetry, the results can be beneficial. Whether through the gently romantic and widely appealing lyrics of a Taylor Swift song or the gritty realistic and often challenging lines of an Allen Ginsberg poem, each attached to a compelling personality, any attention drawn to poetry, whether directly or indirectly, should be welcomed.


Maureen said...

Great post.

One who uses social media, I have to say there is no lack of poetry being produced, written or talked about, and shared. I've "met" a great number of poets via social media, many published by commercial and fine presses. It's all good.

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