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

Monday, February 14, 2011

Poetry, Gender, and VPR: An Update

Much has been discussed in blogs and other online venues during the past week or two about a recent report by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, which highlighted a perceived discrepancy between the numbers of female writers to male writers appearing in various high profile literary journals (Atlantic, Boston Review, Granta, Harpers, London Review of Books, New Republic, New York Review of Books, New York Times Book Review, New Yorker, etc.) during 2010. This issue concerning possible gender bias against women writers by prominent publications has been raised in the past, and as I remarked when addressing the situation in November of 2007 (“Figuring the Numbers: Poetry, Gender, and VPR”), an ongoing conversation is merited and valuable.

As I noted in 2007 when studying products of the editorial process at Valparaiso Poetry Review:

The conversation already has been beneficial, causing me to look at the numbers for Valparaiso Poetry Review and to figure the breakdown of contributors by gender, something I’d never done before. In the nine years of VPR, no work has ever been accepted because of a poet’s gender, nor has rejection of any piece been influenced by the author’s gender. The same could be said for other categories, such as race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or geographical location.

Indeed, usually these characteristics could not be known during the consideration of submissions for publication in VPR. Nevertheless, a tally of the poetry selected for Valparaiso Poetry Review during its nine-year history reveals the following surprisingly precise result. I have figured out that the nine volumes of VPR include 368 poems, 184 written by males and 184 written by females—oddly enough, exactly 50% each.

A few observers have put forward a difference in the numbers of submissions to some literary journals by male and female poets as one possible explanation for the lower percentage of women poets represented in their pages. I don’t know if this could be verified to any great extent because journals normally do not keep such statistics for their submissions. Certainly, VPR has never divided its tens of thousands of submissions over the years into any categories at all.

However, for the sake of this research, through examination of the nearly 500 pending submissions received in the last month or so and currently on hand for consideration, the figures again display an almost equal balance: male 49.8%, female 50.2%. (The gender of a few poets submitting work could not be determined because first names were ambiguous or were replaced by initials.) These numbers might suggest that the gender representation in VPR accurately reflects the gender percentages evidenced in overall submissions to the journal.

Because more than three years have passed since that post near the end of 2007—and considering today is Valentine’s Day, a traditional time for regarding male-female relationships—I revisited my editor’s statistics for VPR over the weekend to determine what the updated numbers might reveal. I can report that there have now been nearly 600 poems published in Valparaiso Poetry Review during its tenure, and very little has changed in statistical relationship between publication of male poets and female poets in the pages of VPR: the percentages now stand at 51% female, 49% male. Upon further examination, I found that among the poets reviewed in the pages of VPR, the figures are 59% female, 41% male. In addition, I checked the “featured poets” selected for all the issues of Valparaiso Poetry Review, and I discovered a split of 46% female, 54% male. The ratio of female to male in the hundreds of submissions currently on hand for VPR was again about evenly divided: 52% female, 48% male.

I do not draw any wide-reaching conclusions from these findings. I offer the numbers merely as a source of information for readers of VPR who might be curious. Once again, as I advised in the 2007 article, the only figures that will matter when poems are chosen for publication in Valparaiso Poetry Review will be the figures of speech within the poetry and other significant, iconic, or symbolic figures used by the poets in the language of their works.


Brian said...

That's a remarkable breakdown, and it shows, more than anything else, I'd say, that women feel comfortable submitting to VPR. I think it also shows that parity isn't some impossible goal to reach--VPR did it, and it seems by your narrative, did it without really trying to. Great story--thanks for sharing.

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Maureen said...

Brian offers an interesting perception, about women being comfortable submitting to VPR, but I think more information is needed to draw such a conclusion.

Brevity also had a post today on this subject; it found some parity in its ratios as well. I've read a few other posts where the numbers are less than laudable.

I'd like to see a study and followup article that tries to get behind the numbers, whatever they are. It's difficult to make changes without understanding causes.