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

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Jeff Friedman: BLACK THREADS

The following paragraphs represent the beginning of Celia Bland’s review of Black Threads by Jeff Friedman, included in Valparaiso Poetry Review’s Fall/Winter 2007-2008 issue (Volume IX, Number 1) released earlier this week.

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It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that Jeff Friedman is a master ventriloquist and Black Threads, his fourth collection of poetry, an anthology of entwined yet disharmonic voices. Many poems in Black Threads are from the perspectives of mythic figures, family members and strays of all kinds. These poems entrust themselves to the reader like confidences whispered in a willing ear. In describing impediments impossible for people to overcome—the entropy they endure and call their lives—Friedman displays a political consciousness that takes as its subject those who live among “the alien corn” (as in the poem “Miriam”), the exiles who can’t speak the native tongue, longing for home. Friedman’s poetry gives them voice.

The collection begins with “The Golem in the Suburbs,” in which the legendary golem,

. . . raised . . .
from the dust, from four letters
of the alphabet repeated in the right
sequence seven times
from the secret names of God . . .

is described like any teenage boy spawned by an uncaring father, roaming a housing development. This golem, however, has killed his maker and the loneliness of the monstrous is conveyed in unadorned details:

I stumble through the suburbs, looking
for someone I can talk to, but no one
comes out of the silent wood houses.

The poet delicately balances the fantastic and the banal, the ordinary and the magical. Friedman is writing poems that are fully realized by the details of grief or displacement. The poet blesses his characters, as Coleridge described it, “unawares”—unbidden and unthanked but with a deep understanding. These people—“Dorothy / who still drives, but only to the synagogue for free lunches” (“Clocks”); the salesman “thumbing through / a thumb-size version of the Testament and marking in red the passages he would use to make his sales pitch to the goyim” (“The Long Heat Wave”); and the fallen angel, who speaks the language of his new home, “in the streets or in the stores, but only / with great effort, and . . . they mocked him” (“The Surviving Angel”)—are members of the silent majority to use Nixon’s famous phrase not to refer to obdurate conservatives but to the stolidly suffering. The unwilling survivors . . ..

* * * * *

I recommend that readers visit the new issue of VPR for the rest of Celia Bland’s review. Also, the new issue of VPR includes a sampling of Jeff Friedman’s poetry, “Night of the Bat.”

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