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

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

AWP Conference, Basketball in Indiana: Metaphors and Made Shots

Over the years, I have frequently written about basketball in this blog for Valparaiso Poetry Review and offered connections to various aspects of poetry. In fact, late each winter I regularly seem to post an article about the arrival of the annual AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference with links to the current basketball season coming to a close and ending in March Madness.

This afternoon, as the 2011 AWP conference gets underway in Washington DC, I once again return to this pairing. While thousands of writers prepare to attend panels and readings, stroll through the aisles of the publishers’ book fair, meet with one another for dinner at local restaurants or late night drinks at the hotel bar, and discuss with old friends those recent developments in their writings or personal lives, I am snowbound in Northwest Indiana. Indeed, although I have enjoyed my trips to the AWP conference a number of times in the last twenty years—including once before in Washington when the cherry blossoms were blooming—one of the reasons I chose not to attend the conference this year related to my concern that the first week in February would not be an ideal time for travel so far from Valparaiso.

Consequently, as I was clearing snow from my long and steep driveway this morning—having measured nearly thirty inches of depth with a yardstick, and with the snow still falling heavily from lake effect bands surging onshore from Lake Michigan—I thought of all those poets or prose writers circulating through the hotel corridors and meeting rooms, engaged in conversations about literature, writing, teaching, and whatever else might be on their minds. I felt disappointment for not sharing in the dialogue, as well as for missing the opportunity to renew friendships and acquaintances developed during the past decades. In addition, I regret that I was unable to attend the book fair, where a new book of mine would be on display. Moreover, I missed the chance to lend my support to the publisher.

Nevertheless, the blizzard conditions during the past 48 hours confirmed my decision to forego the AWP conference this year. Instead, I will look forward to seeing everyone at the 2012 conference in nearby Chicago, just a short drive away and scheduled a month later in the season, where I hope to participate in readings or other activities.

As I have mentioned in previous articles, for many in Indiana the winter months are more closely associated with basketball than any literary conference. With its location in Indiana, Valparaiso University’s identity in sports naturally focuses on basketball. After all, throughout the state, communities have long regarded winter as the season when news of high school basketball games dominates not only the sports sections of local papers, but sometimes also front page headlines. Although most often attached to high school basketball, especially before the state made its misguided shift to class categories, Hoosier Hysteria and the legend of the underdog team additionally extends to Indiana college basketball, particularly those smaller programs in Division I that are called the “mid-majors.”

Valparaiso University and Butler University might be two such university programs that have best reflected an attitude identified with Hoosier basketball. Valparaiso’s magical run to the Sweet Sixteen in 1998, punctuated by the magnificent shot by Bryce Drew that is replayed during coverage of the NCAA tournament each March, certainly drew numerous comparisons to scenes in Hoosiers, the movie version depicting devotion to basketball underdogs in Indiana. I have written in this blog about watching the final rounds of that tournament in a bar at the AWP conference in Portland, surrounded by writers who repeatedly began conversations with comments about the Valparaiso University affiliation on my name tag and referenced the basketball team.

More recently, Butler’s inspiring and admirable 2010 season, ending only with the near miss of a final winning shot against Duke in the national championship game, resurrected further comparisons to the legendary team fictionalized in Hoosiers. Despite their position as determined rivals in Indiana, during their stellar seasons the Valparaiso and Butler basketball teams were able to bring together fans across the state proudly rooting for their success.

This week, Butler and Valparaiso marked a milestone by playing their hundredth basketball game against one another. Even though neither team this year has had a record to quite match the two seasons highlighted above, the level of basketball on display still remains very high, and the rivalry seems as heated as ever. Therefore, for a couple of hours that wintry weather outside melted away, as I watched from my seat, a dozen rows directly behind where the visitors’ coach sits on the bench, for which I have had season tickets nearly twenty-five years, and fans for both teams were treated to another round of classic Indiana basketball. Indeed, during a post-game meeting with the press, Valparaiso head coach Homer Drew described the tense contest that went into overtime as “Hoosier basketball at its finest.”

Today, as I spent a couple of frigid hours (about the duration of a basketball game) clearing the snow from my Indiana driveway, I thought of those gathering in the warmth of hotel lobbies and lounges at the AWP conference, but I also recalled fondly once more the following poem that first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2001-2002 issue (Volume III, Number 1) of Valparaiso Poetry Review, which concisely connects poetry and basketball in Indiana:


Winter nights in Indiana
we played with gloves
in my driveway cleared of snow,
high school games
on the radio.
Tonight, breathing hard,
an empty gym in late March,
I gauge each shot
by cracks in that driveway
sold years ago;
I clang all of them,
spin the turnaround
off the base of the rim,
run down the ball
to keep it
from crossing black lines.

There are sweeping metaphors
to be drawn here;
talk about continuity,
about loss and the chase
of a ball—I could say I make
most long set shots
after whispering lines of poetry;
it would be true and irrelevant,
true and useless.

I feel too old now for metaphors;
there is, always, a soft bounce
back into my hands, and when
I am distracted by love
or Stafford or Merwin,
the long sweet
somewhere off in the darkness.

—Daniel Henry

1 comment:

ttv said...

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