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, August 31, 2011

Remembering Susan Fromberg Schaeffer (1940-2011)

Over this past weekend I was saddened when I learned about the death of Susan Fromberg Schaeffer. Reports indicate that she died on Friday of a stroke. She was 71. Susan had already been in very poor health due to a previous stroke she had suffered a few years ago that greatly affected her mobility and deprived her of speech.

I am honored to state that Susan had been a teacher and strong supporter of my writing when I was discovering my way as an undergraduate student as well as during graduate years obtaining an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Brooklyn College. Indeed, when I changed my major to English in the middle of my sophomore year, Susan provided valuable and encouraging advice. I admired the novels—Falling and Anya, still one of my favorites—and the poetry collection, Granite Lady, she was producing while I was her student, and I regarded her as a mentor whose opinion mattered to me very much.

During my senior year, as Susan was putting together plans for the M.F.A. program in creative writing she co-founded at Brooklyn College, she approached me with an offer to be among the members of its first class. At the time, openings in creative writing graduate studies were rare since the number of such programs nationally only amounted to about a dozen. Today, hundreds of universities contain graduate creative writing programs. Susan knew I had been considering a recommendation from another teacher, Mark Strand, to join the Writers’ Workshop of his alma mater at the University of Iowa; however, I had family, a job, social connections, and personal obligations in New York I felt I could not leave at that time. Also, I wasn’t completely sure yet that a graduate degree in creative writing was the right route for me to follow.

I remember Susan generously inviting me to her home not far from the college campus and explaining I could maintain all my ties in New York while furthering my study of writing, which she felt was important. Moreover, her main point of persuasion included the fact that she wanted me to take courses from a prominent new faculty member who was being brought in to help introduce the program, John Ashbery. Despite all she had taught me, she believed I would benefit more from his guidance. Thankfully, Susan’s argument was compelling, and I agreed to enroll in that initial graduate class in creative writing at Brooklyn College. This decision set in motion a shift in direction that has determined the path I have followed ever since.

Furthermore, as I was completing my M.F.A., Susan suggested to editor Al Poulin the poetry manuscript I was writing as my thesis, declaring it would be ideal for publication by his press, BOA Editions. Poulin also received a second recommendation from John Ashbery. When Poulin solicited and accepted the manuscript, he asked Ashbery to write a foreword for the book. Susan had modestly agreed that John was the right person to contribute the preface for my work. Eventually, the publication of that first collection and its selection as a finalist for a distinguished book award assured my place for a fellowship in a competitive Ph.D. program at Utah, which led to my career as an English professor at Valparaiso University.

More than a decade later, when Valparaiso University hosted a series of visits by authors who had written novels concerning the Vietnam War, I was pleased to invite Susan to campus as a participant on a panel discussing literature about war and as a speaker to offer a reading from her book, Buffalo Afternoon, as well as to explain the extensive research she had done interviewing Vietnam veterans. Throughout her discussions about her work and her process of writing, Susan demonstrated the deliberate approach to detail evidenced in her publications, and she charmed all with her self-effacing humor.

Although she delighted my students and me with her presence and the wonderful talk she delivered, Susan kindly confided to me that upon receiving my invitation, she had been more interested in witnessing the point at which I had arrived in my journey since those early days when I was a student just starting to explore the possibilities of language in her introductory creative writing class. We reminisced quite a bit during the days of her visit. Indeed, I remember fondly our conversations during the four hours of driving in my car to and from Indianapolis. I thanked her a number of times for the wise advice and heartening encouragement she had given me when I needed such counsel and support as a beginning writer.

Susan Fromberg Schaeffer authored fourteen novels, a half dozen poetry collections, a couple of children’s books, and numerous short stories. She was among the rare writers successful at both fiction and poetry. Her volume of poems, Granite Lady, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her short stories won a few O’Henry Awards. Her novels were critically acclaimed and achieved significant readership. Her books deserve even more readers, and I would recommend them to everyone.

Nevertheless, I will always remember Susan for more than those fine accomplishments as an author. Today, as I reflect, I recall the care she displayed toward her students, the warmth she showed toward me as a novice writer, the particular consideration she gave my work, her thoughtfulness expressed in her actions on my behalf, the friendliness exhibited in those long-ago conversations, and again I am thankful. Once more, I feel honored.


Maureen said...

I still have my copy of Anya from the time of its first publication, a book I truly loved reading. Its pages are yellow and brittle; I treasure it.

How wonderful that you had such a personal relationship with this marvelous writer.

John Guzlowski said...

I was sorry to hear about her death. It wasn't time for her to go yet.

Her novel Anya is one of my favorites. I passed it on to so many people that finally there was nothing left of the book but some loose pages.

I'll have to buy another copy.

Belinda Y. Hughes said...

What a heart-warming tribute to a magnificent mentor and writer. I didn't know of her before, but almost feel as if I've met her now. This brings up cherished memories with beloved teachers, mentors and students. Thank you for this.

Beth Jaffe said...

I too was a student of Susan's at Brooklyn College in the 70's and she influenced my writing life ever since. I kept in touch with her via letters and email thru the years, she gave me a generous blurb for my novel, and I was devastated to hear of her death. Thank you for this beautiful memorial. Beth Jaffe

J. David Liss said...

Thank you for posting this lovely remembrance of Susan. I was her student in the MFA program from 1982-84 and recall her generosity of spirit, being invited to the maelstrom of her Victorian home in Brooklyn, the obvious pleasure she and Neil took in each others' company and their willingness to include their students in that pleasure.
-J. David Liss