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

Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness and B.H. Fairchild's "Old Men Playing Basketball"

Some of us busy filling out our regional brackets for the office pool might have seen this week a New York Times sports column focused on one aspect of the NCAA’s annual basketball championship tournament that supplies much of the excitement and surprise involved in “March Madness.” The article (“Breaking Down the N.C.A.A. Tournament Upset” by Adam Himmelsbach) highlighted past stunning victories by lower-seeded teams that have set the standard for today’s underdog squads to follow. The report points to a memorable and instructive example supplied by Valparaiso University’s last-second win over Ole Miss in 1998.

Quoted by Himmelsbach about the close of a tight game where an upset might be in the making, Valparaiso Coach Homer Drew offers: “You need a guy who can create and make big shots when the shot clock is running down.” Certainly, Coach Drew has a well-known example he can display, as seen in the video above, one that has been replayed on television sets during every tournament since the event happened just more than a decade ago. The New York Times explained: “Drew’s son Bryce drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send the 13th-seeded Crusaders past fourth-seeded Mississippi, 70-69, in the 1998 tournament.”

However, those of us at Valparaiso never need to be reminded of “the shot” by a video. The end of that game, especially the final play (named “Pacer” and run by the team at practices throughout the season), is replayed in our minds every March when tournament time rolls around. Even now, eleven years later, the images remain vivid and the emotions of that moment when luck combined with skill for a fortunate result are easily recalled. Nevertheless, sometimes one finds it difficult to believe more than a decade has already passed since then. Indeed, when the game occurred, the initial issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review would not appear for another year and a half.

In the last couple of seasons Valparaiso University has held reunions of the team members—last year for a tenth-anniversary celebration and this year to induct the team into the university’s athletics hall of fame. Recently, watching the players return to their home court and stand at the center line while being recognized during halftime by applause from the fans, I noticed how those of us in the crowd still see in these mature men the younger individuals they once were, and how we yet reminisce about the thrills the players had provided as a team.

The scene brought to mind one of my favorite poems about basketball, a work with which many older men who have played basketball as boys or young athletes might identify—B.H. Fairchild’s “Old Men Playing Basketball,” which coincidentally appeared in his 1998 volume of poetry, The Art of the Lathe. Though the members of Valparaiso University’s 1998 team have not yet reached the age of the poem’s players, as my friends and I have, I imagine perhaps some day they too will find something in common with the participants described in the poem.


The heavy bodies lunge, the broken language
of fake and drive, glamorous jump shot
slowed to a stutter. Their gestures, in love
again with the pure geometry of curves,

rise toward the ball, falter, and fall away.
On the boards their hands and fingertips
tremble in tense little prayers of reach
and balance. Then, the grind of bone

and socket, the caught breath, the sigh,
the grunt of the body laboring to give
birth to itself. In their toiling and grand
sweeps, I wonder, do they still make love

to their wives, kissing the undersides
of their wrists, dancing the old soft-shoe
of desire? And on the long walk home
from the VFW, do they still sing

to the drunken moon? Stands full, clock
moving, the one in army fatigues
and houseshoes says to himself, pick and roll,
and the phrase sounds musical as ever,

radio crooning songs of love after the game,
the girl leaning back in the Chevy’s front seat
as her raven hair flames in the shuddering
light of the outdoor movie, and now he drives,

gliding toward the net. A glass wand
of autumn light breaks over the backboard.
Boys rise up in old men, wings begin to sprout
at their backs. The ball turns in the darkening air.

—B. H. Fairchild

B.H. Fairchild’s Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest won the National Book Critics Circle award. He also is the author of The Arrival of the Future, Local Knowledge, and The Art of the Lathe, a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, the California Book Award, the PEN Center West Poetry Award, and an award from the Texas Institute of Letters. Additionally, Fairchild has been the recipient of the Beatrice Hawley Award, the Capricorn Poetry Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockefeller/Bellagio Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

Readers will find additional information about Valparaiso University basketball in a previous post (“Indiana Basketball, Homer Drew, and ‘Jumpshots in the Dark’”) that appeared on “One Poet’s Notes.” In addition, visitors are invited to examine an earlier article at “One Poet’s Notes” (“B.H. Fairchild on Art, Craftsmanship, and Poetry”), as well as a review of Fairchild’s poetry (“A Necessary World: B.H. Fairchild’s Local Knowledge) that I wrote for the Spring/Summer 2006 issue (Volume VII, Number 2) of Valparaiso Poetry Review.

1 comment:

Pamela Johnson Parker said...

Thanks for this! I will add it to my basketball poems (I love Bill Matthews' "The Death of the Utah Stars" and "Foul Shots: A Clinic"). Sometimes I have a presentation to do, and they always love the sports poems. (And for some strange reason, they love Roethke's "The Geranium". Go figure).