One of the most exciting things happening in the world of the writerly these days is the frequent blurring of lines, blending of genres, the twisting, if you will, of straight lines in the realm of language. As a reader (and writer) who has become fairly discontent with the emptiness or hollowness of purely experimental poetry, while still holding onto an enchantment with the idea of breaking open our language, rescuing it from the triteness of consumer culture, I find myself constantly on the lookout for writing which breaks the norms of genre and syntax and yet is connective—writing which finds a way to embody (and dares to embody) emotion, without falling into sentimentality.
To me, Shelly Taylor's poems do both—cross lines between poetry and prose; find ways to rupture syntax that are always circular, always carry the thread along nonetheless, seem more a delighting liltful ride than a disembodied shatter. They needn't move forward in any sort of linear manner, and yet they accrue—something builds along the way—and at the end you feel you have entered a world full of all sorts of vibrant, intriguing details and characters—and not only that, but you have been offered real connection to that world, in a tone that moves from being forthrightly somber, meditative, and imaginative, to purely playful.
And Shelly's poems are so full of her voice—when I read them I can hear her soft, slow southern voice carefully pronouncing each word. There is a speaker consistently present within each piece; without them ever becoming what I would call "narrative" poems, they never abandon a rootedness in some anchor, some personhood which is unafraid to tangibly approach emotion, but skillfully evades cliche or sentimentality.
I am delighted and honored to have the opportunity to introduce the words & work of a writer I think well worth a read. [AZ]
Granny gather your geese my
With naughty pin-pusher, wants a mahogany closet
RUTH STARTS EARLY, VISITS THE SEA
The television horse is dying. Pow, the man's hand ejecting bullets & I know all about the back bang. The sand with the horse's blood, suffused—the sand white a pale moon high & right in the midday, the woman's hair nearby, red. Every time she looks up is a body. It might've well been hers, this juncture on a map where no one looks back at the sound of a shot, a horse lying on the white sand, horse blood. She is tiny in relation to the gunman so are we. The market fills, one having nothing to do with the other, oranges are bought. With practical decision-making: factor in this, that—I know no matter who I call, that horse will probably die. Mama says she's seen this episode, that at some point all this'll get on, go easier. But why did that man not know the ailment, have banamine black bag handy for the mainlining, thump & jugular-prod, make the horse not walk it off? I see the practiced tongue-over-the-bit loll, the on-cue moan, the red-headed woman's too late before the firing, sir hey sir how much for the horse? You think I'm the one that sold the horse. I think the lifeguard stand painted festive blue may as well be a beacon against all the white, the I can—can I not, be no more a part of all this, that's bleeding out?
The firstfruit ripens. The way
hauls the whole into the vale. Not your slow stow
each prop room for where I begot my sunbonnet
Spatterdock, pew back & knee high
on the roadside. I've a snag in my stockings.
of the color turn—a tongue
farther, father harnessed, the not-rights.
ahead, says hallelujah. I may be
Will-o'-the wisp on down the skin
to gutter & under. Better I go
through & plow like hell. A deathwatch then
off the ledges—I suffer
or otherwise...etc. He does more
Spills my milk, says sorry, says gospel
a trough then these feeding breasts,
footwork & news, therefore able, takes.
"For love" is partly inspired by Creeley's mastery of the line as rotating universe. Also, from an obsession with the 1954 "Sabrina" with Hepburn, Bogart, & Holden (the 'zeppelin' bit is a loosely translated line of Hepburn's from the tennis court scene). I love Whitman's idea of an unseen & all prevailing presence in most of the poems from Leaves of Grass. Section 11 from 'Song of Myself' Whitman has an invisible hand that 'souses with spray' his 'twenty-eight young men' bathers.
"One shackle" developed out of my love for Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" which is & will always be my favorite 80's song. I was also influenced by old wild western phenomena: gunslingin' & of course horses. There is also something of S&M here—power struggles in relationships, as well as the caring stance women take with other women in times of need.
"Ruth starts early, visits the sea" is writing from an episode of Six Feet Under—the one where Ruth & Bettina take a 'wild' trip down to Mexico & Ruth's rent-a-horse collapses on the shore. I did a whole series of "mama says" poems at a time when I was phone-talking with my mom every day & could not get her voice out of my head.
"Ritual idol" is straight-up biblical... & southern.