not everything gets written down

A reason to broaden the definition of political is because each individual is different, and our poems will necessarily reflect that. In a democracy, that seems to me to mean that those who must write as witness to the savagery of, say, war should do so — that’s part of the record of what it means to be alive right now in 2016. So too, though, is the intimacy between a parent and child, so too is the agony of private despair that can blind us to what also counts as part of life — joy, in its myriad forms. To be alive has never been one thing, any more than a period of history is. At the same time, people are complex creatures, and we manifest our sensibilities in many ways. Writing is just one of them. Which is to say, speaking for myself at least, my poems are simply how one aspect of my sensibility gets enacted; other parts might be manifest in how I dress, or interact with others, or by the hobbies I choose. Not everything gets written down, nor does it have to be. We should no more make assumptions about who a person is, based on that person’s poetry, than we should be assuming how they should write, and about what, based on who we think a person is.

- Carl Phillips, from his essay "A Politics of Mere Being" in the December 2016 issue of Poetry Magazine. You can read the whole thing here.


correctly political

There are countless aspects to a self; race and sexual orientation are only two of them, it seems to me, neither the least nor the most 
important. It’s more accurate to say there’s a constant shifting of 
hierarchy, depending on any given moment in experience. Am I a gay black man when roasting a chicken at home for friends? Sure. But that’s not what I’m most conscious of at the time. Am I necessarily, then, stripped of political resonance at that moment? Or is not the sharing of food with others a small social contract analogous to the contract of giving and taking — of interaction — that we call citizenship in a democratic society? Is this a stretch? Can we only be political when we are speaking to specific issues of identity, exclusion, injustice?

Resistance might be the one thing that governs what we think of as political. And in that light, I’d hardly call roasting a chicken a political act (unless perhaps I were to roast a chicken and serve it defiantly to my vegetarian friends ... ). But who determines what the things we choose to resist should be? We’ve heard the term “politically correct” forever, it seems. But increasingly there seems a push to be 
correctly political. How this translates is that there are a small group of things that we — by which I mean poets of outsiderness, of whatever kind — are expected to write from and about, and it comes down to an even smaller group of identity markers (race, gender, sexual orientation, as I’ve mentioned), when in fact there are so many aspects by which identity gets both established and recognized. This is in no way to say that the identity markers I’ve mentioned aren’t immensely important; they just aren’t solely important.

- Carl Phillips, from his essay "A Politics of Mere Being" in the December 2016 issue of Poetry Magazine. You can read the whole thing here.


Incite Reading Series - January 18th

I'm thrilled to be taking part in the Vancouver Writers Fest's Incite Reading Series this January. I'll be one of four poets reading at the opening event of the 2017 season. The details:

Incite Reading Series
Wednesday, January 18, 2017, 7:30 pm (doors 7:00 pm)
CBC Studio 700
700 Hamilton Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Rachel Rose, me, Patricia Young and Jan Zwicky!
RSVP here.

Two items of note here:

1. That list of names is alphabetical! Rose, Taylor, Young, Zwicky. It's like they did that thing where your high school teacher picks names from the bottom of the class list, just to shake things up.

2. That list of names!!! I'm incredibly fortunate to read with these three. It will be especially meaningful to me to read with Jan Zwicky, whose Lyric Philosophy was an important guide for me during the writing of The News (and one of the reasons I sought out Gaspereau as a publisher).

For regular attendees of the series, please note that this event will be held across the street from the usual venue (the VPL) in CBC Vancouver's Studio 700. The VPL's lower floors are still being cleaned up from the flooding back in September (Dead Poets will be relocated again, too, for the same reason).

I hope you can make it out to the reading. Even if you're sick of hearing me read, the rest of this lineup will be worth putting up with me for a few minutes!


Tuesday Reading Extravanganza

The Lower Mainland will be home to two killer readings next Tuesday (and I'm only biased in saying that about one of them). First, at 1 PM in Abbotsford, Jordan Abel, Bren Simmers and Kevin Spenst will be reading at the University of the Fraser Valley's bookstore.

I'm currently teaching a poetry workshop at UFV, and these three's books have played prominent roles in the class, so it will be a pleasure to have them out to speak with students and give a reading (which I'll be hosting!). If you're out in the Valley, come say hello:

That evening, in Vancouver, local poets Aislinn Hunter and Danielle LaFrance will be joined by Patrick Warner (St. John's) and Robyn Sarah (Montreal) for one hell of a knockout lineup of readings:

I hope to see you at one or the other (and a BIG gold star if I see you at both!).


Vancouver Reading - Tomorrow at Twisted Poets!

I'm very happy to be featuring at Twisted Poets tomorrow, alongside Danny Peart. Danny is a heck of a guy, and Twisted Poets is like a home to me. Also, it was at Twisted Poets a year and a half ago that I first publicly read from my draft manuscript of The News (at that time, I was about 14 weeks in). The encouragement I received from the audience helped keep me going to the finish line.

It should be a special night. I hope to see you there. The details, in non-poster form:

Twisted Poets Literary Salon
Thursday, November 24th, 7:00 PM
Cottage Bistro
4468 Main St, Vancouver
Featuring: Danny Peart and me!
By Donation


The best/worst part of a book tour...

is coming home with more books than when you left. Five years back, on tour for The Other Side of Ourselves, I picked up an absurd 24 new books along the way.

This time around I was determined to restrain myself, and in my five-day tour I managed to buy only 12 new books. I know, right? I am a strong and capable man.

In keeping with the style of my last tour-book-haul post, here are the mighty twelve, with notes on their city of acquisition:

Digressions: Prose Poems, Collage Poems, and Sketches, Robyn Sarah (Montreal)

Slow States of Collapse, Ashley-Elizabeth Best (Montreal)

All The Gold Hurts My Mouth, Katherine Leyton (Picton)

The Last White House at the End of the Row of White Houses, Michael Casteels (Picton)

Model Disciple, Michael Prior (Montreal)

Forests of the Medieval World, Don Coles (Toronto)

The Prinzhorn Collection, Don Coles (Toronto)

What if red ran out, Katia Grubisic (Toronto)

A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent, Stuart Ross (Toronto)

How Festive the Ambulance, Kim Fu (Toronto)

Beautiful Country, Robert Wrigley (Toronto)

Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent, Liz Howard (Picton)

The tour itself was grand - it was really nice to reconnect with people I met on my first spin out east (or "out middle" as the transplanted Maritimers liked to point out), and to gain a number of new friends and readers.

AND I got to be part of not one but two reader collages (at the Resonance Reading Series in Montreal, and the Pivot Reading Series in Toronto):

Resonance Reading, w/ Margaret Christakos, Michael Prior,
Ashley-Elizabeth Best and Michelle Winters. 
Pivot Reading, w/ Stevie Howell, Leesa Dean and Erin Wunker.

Thanks to all who organized, attended, hosted, ferried, welcomed, etc. It was a wonderful, if blurry, five days!


Ubyssey Review of The News

The Ubyssey's Curtis Seufert has written the first (of hopefully many) book review for The News. You can read it here:

The News is a powerful meditation on birth and empathy

Curtis came to my Vancouver launch, and followed up with a short interview with me as he prepared his review. It's a very thoughtful, very generous piece. My favourite part:

"While other works might choose either to be only a personal journal, or simply a critique of the state of the world and humanity, it is Taylor’s journey towards a more empathetic perspective that allows him to transcend both."

Thank you to Curtis and The Ubyssey for the coverage!


Escaping After All

Leonard Cohen on Hydra, with Nancy Bacal. 1964. Source.

In July, Marta and I hauled our son, Lucas, up and down the near-endless narrow stairways of the Greek island of Hydra, looking for Leonard Cohen's house - the house where he lived with Marianne, and where he lamented as the town's first telephone wires were installed: "I would stare out the window at these telephone wires and think how civilization had caught up with me and I wasn't going to be able to escape after all." From this came Bird on the Wire.

That day in July it was +35° and we all nearly sweat to death. We found no house, no Leonard, but instead came upon unforgettable views, and donkeys cooling in the shade of abandoned buildings, and at door after door and window after window, his quietly welcoming former neighbours.

Now I think of Lucas growing up in a world without Leonard Cohen, and Marta and I growing alongside him. The man will forever be as elusive as his house was to us that day. Even following closely behind his poems and songs we won't catch him, not really, not ever (he's finally eluded us, and our civilization). But it will be a good journey, nonetheless, and what we will find will be as beautiful and sustaining and open-hearted as what we will miss. Maybe more so.

Thank you, Leonard, for the poems, the songs, the path you've left us, snaking up into the hills.


your precise allergy

15. To me the most profound point of integration between experience and art is in rendering faithfully and resonantly a well-known trope. To do so is to surrender, to submerge the ego in something greater than itself. The ego wants to be iconoclastic and “experimental” and puts up a hell of a fight. If you can allow yourself to commit the pedestrian sin of employing a recognizable trope, or somehow sneak a recognizable trope into your work by accident (then, upon seeing it, realize you like it, and feel reluctant to strike it), the reward of seeing something universally understandable drawn by your own hand, which then becomes not recognizably your hand at all but a vessel of culture and humanity, is one of the sovereign experiences, I think, of being alive.


27. One of the many reasons why “giving up” and “being lazy and insincere” is necessary to create good art (cf. Wilde, Nabokov) is because once you have internalized a trope to the point where you can employ it at the drop of a hat with no effort, it feels to you fake and insincere. But if you maintain your precious allergy to something that feels easy and understandable, you’ll never allow yourself to employ this trope which, despite being pure math to you now, once meant so much to you, and still has power for others who don’t spend all day every day dissecting art.


93. You find what works for you. However, you cannot choose what kind of (good) artist you will become. Be humble enough to share the gifts you actually have with the world (even if they don’t feel cool), be nimble enough to follow your genius, and be open enough to dabble and discover it.

- Three of Stephen Thomas' "14 Notes on Tropes" (itself an excerpt from a presumably much longer essay) over at The Puritan's Town Crier blog. You can read the whole thing here.


the words are chameleons

English is a fun tool. It is much more malleable than French, especially for a non-native speaker. Lucien Carr, [Jack] Kerouac’s friend at Columbia, wrote that they were both constantly “overawed by the versatility of the English language.” The poetic form and the English language allowed me to shed two rigidities: that of classical prose and that of French grammar. In English, verbs and nouns often have the same form (a race, to race; a treasure, to treasure). Conjugation is childishly simple: just add an S to the third person singular. The words retain their core while fulfilling many functions. The words are chameleons. They keep the same shape, but change colour. In French, the words have to accessorize instead, put on -er, -ais, -ette. They have to put on hats, pearl necklaces, the right capes or the right masks in order to switch roles. The language is much more dressed up. When I write in English, I feel stripped of the costumes.

- Dominique Bernier-Cormier, from his essay "Taking English for a Spin" over on The Puritan's Town Crier blog. You can read the whole thing here.