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, August 20, 2009

Crossing John Ashbery's Bridge

Last year, in an essay titled “Landscape and Lyricism,” which I had written as the featured author for issue 7 of Segue, I discussed the inspirations and associations often existing between poetry and place in my work and others' creations. Indeed, this subject is one many writers have examined in the past and concluded important connections between poetry and place frequently contribute to imaginative or innovative language. I also opened a post on the topic in September at “One Poet’s Notes” with a comment concerning this relationship: “For many poets a sense of place plays an important role in the initiation of images or offers a contribution to the establishment of tone during the composition of a poem.”

Perhaps that observation is never truer and more obvious than when a poet has been commissioned to compose lyrics about a specific piece of landscape or a particular landmark. Such was the case in Minneapolis in 1988 when John Ashbery was enlisted to write lines of a poem that would be printed across the span of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge, which connects the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden with Loring Park. The bridge extends nearly 400 feet and was designed by artist Siah Armajani.

On Monday a slide show of photos appeared at the “Been Thinking” blog that marvelously captures the experience of a pedestrian reading Ashbery’s words while crossing the bridge. I recommend readers view the lovely photographs. In addition, I urge readers visit the ArtsNet Minnesota web page on "Designing Spaces and Places" where one can hear John Ashbery reciting the poem at the Walker Arts Center nearby the bridge in 1990. The text of the poetry follows:

And now I cannot remember how I would
have had it. It is not a conduit (confluence?) but a place.
The place, of movement and an order.
The place of old order.
But the tail end of the movement is new.
Driving us to say what we are thinking.
It is so much like a beach after all, where you stand
and think of going no further.
And it is good when you get to no further.
It is like a reason that picks you up and
places you where you always wanted to be.
This far, it is fair to be crossing, to have crossed.
Then there is no promise in the other.
Here it is. Steel and air, a mottled presence,
small panacea
and lucky for us.
And then it got very cool.

—John Ashbery


Anonymous said...

Awesome. What has been the public response to the poem, I wonder.

Lyle Daggett said...

Interested to find this post. Having lived in Minneapolis most of my life, I've crossed the bridge in question many times.

It has a personal connection too -- when we first moved to Minneapolis (when I was five years old), among the first friends we made were the family of Manucher Armajani, brother of Siah Armajani (designer of the bridge). Manucher's wife Janet -- Siah's sister-in-law -- and my mother were close friends for the rest of my mom's life (nearly fifty years from the time they first met).

I think I only met Siah once, when I was around 5 or 6 years old, at a local gallery showing of some of his sculptures, smaller pieces as I recall.

I remember reading once that Siah had originally conceived of the bridge as only the span portion, with no stairs or ramp to ascend and cross it. He was interested, as the article I read quoted him, in "the concept of a bridge," rather than an actual functional bridge.

According to the account, the local neighborhood association pressed the city to require that the bridge be crossable, not merely ornamental. I have to agree with their call on that one -- the bridge spans the confluence of two wide busy streets, and I recall any number of times, prior to the bulding of the footbridge, having to dash on foot across the intersection before the light changed.

I found online another good photo of the bridge, a wide view from the Sculpture Garden side, showing the street, Loring Park at the far end, and some of the buildings in the area. The rococo-style cathedralesque building in the background in the left half of the photo is the Basilica of St. Mary. Judging from the somewhat thin, but green, leafage on the trees, and the complete absence of snow, I'd guess the photo was taken late April or early May, around that time of year.

The photo is here.

Thanks for posting this.

Steven Fama said...

I'm sorry, but I strongly, deeply doubt your statement that the recording of Ashbery reading his poem was made while he was "standing beside the bridge" of which his poem is a part.

The recording does not state that Ashbery was standing besides the bridge. It only states it was recorded "here." That could mean Minneapolis in general, but probably means within the Walker Art Center itself (which has a long tradition of poetry readings).

Plus -- and this is the key evidence -- if you have ever actually in person seen and read Ashbery's poem on the bridge, you know that there is something HUGE missing from the recording:

the bridge crosses about a dozen lanes of traffic -- full-on expressway and/or busy city type traffic, that is NEVER quiet.

In fact, it is almost impossible to be up on that bridge, so LOUD is the noise. Every time I get up on it, with the RUSH-ROAR of the speeding cars beneath you (the bridge is for pedestrians only), about the only thing I want to do is get off the damn thing.

The photos of the poem are better, imho, than actually being there. The NOISE on that bridge is LOUD. REALLY LOUD.

Funny how hardly anybody says anything about the noise: it's by far the overwhelming reality of the experience.

Edward Byrne said...

You are correct, Steven. The Walker Arts Center is a few blocks from the bridge. Therefore, I should have used "nearby" instead of "beside." I will make the change. Thanks for the correction and for your firsthand account of the noise at the bridge.

Nicholas Laughlin said...

I live rather far away from Minneapolis, but I have good friends there, and I've visited the city a few times over the last dozen years. The sculpture garden is one of my favourite places, and I've spent contented hours there, always making sure to cross the bridge and read Ashbery's poem--often aloud. Oddly, the noise from the roads below has left no impression. Have I been lucky enough to go there only on specially quiet days, or has my brain kindly filtered out the minor annoyance of zooming traffic and left me with the memory of the company of friends, the view of the skyline, and Ashbery's beautiful poem?

lillie.amanda said...

I live in St. Paul and one of my favorite places to go in the Twin Cities is this bridge. I have never really been bothered by the noise...and actually, I don't think it's all that loud. The whole experience is very serene, especially because I'm a poet and am continuously inspired by Ashbery's poem on the bridge. I love standing on the bridge and looking at the skyline at night while the cars whir by below me. I think the traffic only adds to the experience.

Anonymous said...

I was on the bridge last Friday night about 8 pm. I read the poem aloud on my return crossing and remember having to shout it out due to the traffic noise below. Maybe it's only us out of town folks from quiet farms who notice the noise.

I'm still trying to figure out what the poem is about.

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Anonymous said...

The last "really informative" post led me to all kinds of advertising--a rude departure from the lovely comments regarding Ashbery and this beautiful bridge. Not only that, I found myself in a loop and had to completely start over to return to this blogpost.

Anonymous said...

I live ~30 seconds walk from that bridge and hear people shouting this stupid poem every other day... shut up, stop living other people's lives, and go live your own.

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