Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jean Valentine Becomes New York State Poet

One of the last good things Eliot Spitzer did as governor of New York was name Jean Valentine as the new State Poet, a 2-year position that includes the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit. The governor's office described Valentine this way:

Ms. Valentine, a Chicago native, graduated from Radcliffe College and has lived most of her life in New York City. Her most recent book is “Little Boat” (Wesleyan University Press, 2007). Her previous collection of poems, “Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965-2003,” was the winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Poetry. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York State Council for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts.

The Zen-like precision of the poems in LITTLE BOAT is a delight, and a satisfying further step from the wide sweep of Valentine's DOOR IN THE MOUNTAIN collection.

Valentine's first collection was DREAM BARKER AND OTHER POEMS, which won the Yale Younger Poets award, volume 61 in the series (1965). The title poem, "Dream Barker," opens with a dinner date that begins in a flat-bottomed boat, under circumstances that recall Huck Finn's ally Jim. I still shiver at the last stanza:

And then I woke up: in a white dress:
Dry as a bone on dry land, Jim,
Bone dry, old, in a dry land, Jim, my Jim.

Explore her web site: www.jeanvalentine.com. And yes, we have some signed copies...

No comments: