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 6, 2011

Review of David Orr’s BEAUTIFUL & POINTLESS

The new issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review, released a few weeks ago, includes my review of David Orr’s critical commentary on poetry, Beautiful & Pointless.


Regularly, during the past quarter century, a number of books have been published announcing or debating “the death of poetry” in contemporary culture. The reports and arguments concerning this issue seem to have sparked energetic conversations or engendered a degree of conflict among many poets and academics, particularly since the discussion has coincided with a steep rise in the number of graduate creative writing programs at American universities and the enormous growth of membership in AWP (The Association of Writers & Writing Programs). Indeed, on the surface, some might suggest the greater enrollments in our nation’s MFA creative writing programs—whose merits also always appear to be subjects of an ongoing controversy—and the evidence of overflowing crowds at annual AWP conferences in recent years would seem to contradict any claims about a downward spiral in attention to literature and writing, particularly poetry.

In addition, occasionally observers in the literary community offer further indicators they say speak to the health of interest in poetry, such as the sudden and tremendous presence of poetry in online journals or other Internet venues during this century’s initial decade. Others point to the popularity of spoken word poetry in live performances or on cable television specials, as well as in thousands of YouTube video presentations readily available to all. Opposing voices may acknowledge, and even welcome, these developments, but they recommend such activities at best represent evidence of a transition away from printed volumes of poetry and a migration from what might be perceived as serious art prevalent in the tradition of the poetry canon. They would accept every attention poetry receives, but would also compare most of the products in these new forms of delivery to an ordinary kind of pop poetry that, like pop music, has more in common with current fads than classical works.

As I began reading David Orr’s Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry, I wondered how his commentary would contribute to the present perceptions of poetry among readers, poets, critics, and academics. Immediately in the volume’s introduction, Orr acknowledges recent concerns with the state of American poetry and its readership: “For decades now, one of the poetry world’s favorite activities has been bemoaning its lost audience, then bemoaning the bemoaning, then bemoaning that bemoaning, until finally everyone shrugs and applies for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.” I must confess I was heartened to notice the tone taken by Orr in the book’s opening pages—and his hint that the debate over “the death of poetry” had reached a certain level of tediousness—as well as his belief that “such arguments are interesting only to (some) poets.”

The book’s introductory comments also reveal that its subtitle, A Guide to Modern Poetry, might be a misnomer, since Orr’s intentions do not include the sort of survey and study of modern poetry one might expect from a textbook or critical treatise. Indeed, Orr’s use of the term “modern poetry” is not limited to those poets of the modern era, such as Pound, Eliot, Stevens, Williams, etc. Instead, the author usually speaks of more contemporary poets whom he freely groups under the “modern” label. He also advises readers: “this book will try to give you a sense of what modern poets think about, how those poets talk about what they’re thinking about, and most important, how an individual poetry reader relates to the art he usually likes, always loves, and is frequently annoyed by.” Orr confesses to an avoidance of strict critical or academic standards in his explorations and explanations of poetry....

I invite visitors to examine my entire review of David Orr’s book, as well as to read the rest of Valparaiso Poetry Review’s Fall/Winter 2011-2012 issue, the journal’s 25th issue.

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