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 20, 2008

Two Poets View Cuban Roots

After almost half a century as the Communist ruler of Cuba, Fidel Castro this week finally quit his official position. Having been seriously ill for nearly two years, Castro at last hinted toward the extent of his weakened physical condition by handing in his resignation. Consequences of this development for the Cuban citizens still seem unclear. However, despite the probability Castro will be succeeded by his brother Raul, indications point toward an eventual end of the dark dictatorship that has held the island nation in isolation, especially separate from the large neighbor lying only 90 miles to its north.

Indeed, word concerning Cuba’s changing political situation quickly spread through Florida’s communities populated by numerous Cuban exiles—many who left more than forty years ago when Castro captured total control of his nation—and a couple of generations of their families. Since hopes of a free Cuba have been raised among the exiles a number of times in the past few decades only to be dashed by Fidel Castro’s uncanny ability to retain power, most in the Cuban-American communities continue again to express hesitancy about embracing great optimism. As reported in the New York Times, one exile who left the island in 1960 seemed to speak for others he knew: “It will continue. The brother took power. The older generation is still in power.”

Nevertheless, one must regard with curiosity Castro’s relinquishment of power and his diminished health, maybe seeing them as signs of an approaching political transition that someday will transform the closed society in the long-suffering country, allowing an end to the lengthy breach between Cuba and the United States. Certainly, Cuban-Americans who have relatives still living in Cuba, perhaps some held as political prisoners, know the seriousness and the magnitude of what is at stake if change does occur.

Virgil Suárez frequently has given his perceptions about this issue in engaging and enlightening poetry. As I mentioned in my review of his recent volume, 90 Miles: Selected and New Poems, Suárez has offered “a persistent focus on the experiences of an immigrant’s existence, and an expatriate’s memories of pre-Castro Cuba has always been central” to his work.

Born in Havana in 1962, Suárez arrived in the United States with his family when he was twelve years old. Suárez has written significant pieces, often in vivid and compelling language, that celebrate the lives of exiles and elegize those individuals or circumstances lost during Castro’s iron-fisted control of Cuba. In my previous commentary on Suárez’s writing, I noted the use of an exile persona in his poetry who, like the poet, “speaks, even sings, not only for himself, but for all who do not yet have the freedom of such speech, for those of the past perhaps imprisoned, tortured or killed for their exercise of speech, and for those who sought to sing their words in freedom, yet came up short and were lost in their passage over those 90 miles of water separating them from the promise of liberty.”

In his seven collections of poetry, Virgil Suárez repeatedly has attempted to build bridges that span the distance between Cuba and the United States, between the exiles he has observed and those relatives or friends left behind on the island, between the past and the present, between generations of family members, between the English and Spanish languages spoken by those he knows, as well as between the literature and arts of the two cultures he has experienced.

Virgil Suárez was the featured poet in Volume III, Number 1 of Valparaiso Poetry Review (Fall/Winter 2001-2002). The issue includes an interview of Suárez by Ryan G. Van Cleave and a group of three poems, among which readers will find the following:


caught them at sundown in the tall grass
by the plantain plants by the porch

of our house in Havana, put several
in clear marmalade jars, brought them

inside the house, as pets, for the night;
there on the nightstand, in the dark,

they flashed their incendiary illuminations,
flashes of fluorescence, like faint lights

of a distant tarmac to signal the passing
of fears, such fears that keep children

awake for so long: old men in cold rooms
sit in the dark, stained undershirts,

the sound of phlegm, fingers gone yellow
from cigarette smoking. This long, long

road through distant cities, wrapped
in strange light. Everywhere, cucuyos,

from Havana to Tallahassee, to light
this child's way home.

Readers also will find in the same volume of VPR work by Jill Peláez Baumgaertner, another poet who writes about her family background, notably her Cuban ancestry and perhaps the extended exile of some during Castro’s regime. The issue contains a review by David Craig of Baumgaertner’s book of poetry, Finding Cuba, and a pair of her poems, including “Uprooted,” which previously has been featured in “One Poet’s Notes,” yet serves as a fine example that I wish to share here as well:


The artists painting Cuba from memory
or from photographs, from family stories
of the exodus, from dreams, know
their bloodlines are not clear. The work
is mongrel, neither Cuban nor American.

They paint masks, figures floating, palm
trees set on pedestals. They sculpt women
locked in birth. What they want is a particular
place. What they find is borrowed space.
In hand-colored gelatin silver prints or wood

with oil and gold leaf or oil on linen or on
masonite or on carved locust bark, they discover
new rooms, dream landscapes, regions of origin
as small as phone-booths, as expansive as cane
fields, rented, tenanted, temporary.

Interprete mi silencio—, one says.
They are like poets scratching out their
metaphors sideways on pieces of lined paper,
crossgrain, drafting possibilities,
unsettled, undecided.

These artists ask and never receive replies,
remember without mementos, feel without touching.
They have heard of the royal palm, seventy feet tall
and seek its landscape. How odd its trunk
is almost hollow, its roots mere threads.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Castro imprisoned many poets. Castro is human garbage who has killed thousands of Cubans in his failed pursuit of a communist paradise.

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
Castro was BRILLIANT

like Marx, Lenin and Mao
he helped redefine EVIL

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
celebrities are GUILTY

of having talent and luck
so they must praise dictators

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
never admit you were wrong

Communism’s FANTASTIC
BEST false ideology

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
keep your people poor

deny them decent health care
convince them they have it GREAT

Fidel Castro
murderous tyrant
- fools' hero

communist freedom killer
imprisons many poets...