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, November 28, 2010

Student Poetry Reading and Teaching Creative Writing

As the end of the semester nears, I take this moment to reflect once again on the significant degree of development witnessed in the poetic skill of the students in my undergraduate introduction to poetry writing course during the past few months. I also would like to use this opportunity to announce the class poetry reading, which will be held Wednesday, December 1, at 7:00 p.m. in the Brauer Museum of Art.

Each fall semester during the last weeks of classes I pleasantly discover one special reward of teaching poetry writing. For many years the syllabus in my poetry writing course has included a culminating event to celebrate the fine poems attained by the students in compositions contributed as class assignments.

Fortunately, through the long-standing cooperation of Valparaiso University’s Brauer Museum of Art, every December my students have had the honor of presenting a formal reading in the wonderful setting of one of the museum’s main galleries to which all at the university and townspeople in the surrounding community are invited for an evening of poetry, followed by a chance to speak with the student poets while enjoying refreshments during a reception in the lobby.

The university’s office of public relations assists by publicizing the evening, usually resulting in a large and appreciative audience filling the museum. This semester, as part of the promotion for the student reading, the public relations staff videotaped a couple of the students in my class who will be participating. These recordings and information about the event will be available at the main web page of the university in the days preceding the reading.

I wish to congratulate my students in advance of their reading. I always admire the courage revealed during the students’ reading as they gaze out at those in the rows of chairs before them, a crowd that has often exceeded one hundred. To deliver one’s personal thoughts and emotions to others in lyric poems often leaves the writer feeling very vulnerable, especially when speaking to numerous strangers.

I’m sure a number of the students originally might have been nervously hesitant about a public reading of their poetry when they first learned about it in the syllabus at the start of the semester—particularly because normally some of the students are only freshmen or sophomores and may not even be English or creative writing majors (there have been majors in biology, psychology, physics, and computer science, among others). Nevertheless, every year a certain amount of competence and confidence gathered through class conversations and workshop of their poems apparently permits them to bravely read with assurance.

As I have written in the past, I have frequently been challenged to defend creative writing courses and the notion anyone could learn creative writing in an academic setting the way other subjects are presented and comprehension achieved. Even colleagues have posed such questions out of curiosity. Whenever asked about this, I have responded affirmatively. As in painting and music classes, creative writing courses provide opportunities for students to gain knowledge and to practice the craft. With proper training and encouragement, each individual should demonstrate advancement in his or her abilities over a period of time.

However, I always have qualified my replies by reminding all that accomplishments at the highest levels of creativity and achievements of excellence in writing poetry or fiction, as in any other art, depend upon a certain amount of inherent qualities held by an author—an acute sensitivity to the sound and sense of language, an inquisitive mind filled with imaginative and innovative perspectives, and a deep desire to continually better oneself expressed through ongoing study of examples produced by other writers (past and present), as well as great dedication exhibited in one’s own hard work and an admirable ambition accompanied by the willingness to risk failure.

If addressed with concerns about whether creative writing can be taught, I usually refer to comments by Dave Smith, one of my creative writing teachers, who once offered an explanation in his book, Local Assays: On Contemporary American Poetry: “Writing can be and always has been taught. One may teach both the forms and formulas of literature. . . . In writing what is taught is respect for time, history, discipline, struggle, expectation, and accomplishment.”

When my students end a semester in poetry writing, I usually suggest their task has just begun if they truly want to excel as poets. I recommend that they consider the term’s lessons about how to employ language effectively—and any basic knowledge gained about composition, style, or form—ought to be seen merely as a start toward a more singular and stimulating voice, as well as an invitation to use the tools consequently provided by classroom discussions to find words, lines, and stanzas that supply the literary means to stretch one’s vision, perhaps allowing an instinctive initiation of imagery or an intuitive attainment of insight.

However, I realize few of the students in my creative writing classes ever contemplate continuing with poetry or fiction writing as a vocation, and some may never publish a poem or read their poetry publicly again. Still, I hope all of them will be avid readers throughout their lives, and I believe creative writing courses develop better readers as well as better writers, particularly by encouraging a supplemental view through the author’s eyes when reading. Additionally, as Dave Smith further writes: “Creative writing is one of the few formal opportunities in education for self-discovery and self-creation. It leads a student less to right answers than to right questions. It creates more intelligent, informed, and responsible readers by immersing them in the actual process of imaginative exploration and accomplishment.”

Just as in past years, I have enjoyed my poetry writing course this semester with a fine group of young poets, and I encourage attendance at the class reading by anyone in the area.

1 comment:

H. Brown said...

so encouraging to read as both a teacher and a student of writing. i am also inspired by the bravery of your students and reminded of how important it is for all of us to work purposefully with the forms of language to put flesh on our deepest feelings. thank you for sharing!