Thick With Conviction - A Poetry Journal
thick with conviction a poetry journal
 10 Questions with...Taylor Graham


Hi! Kristina here for the last time bugging poets for their two cents, and this month I handed over the questions to a talented lady. Our new 10 Questions with... this time around is with the prolific Taylor Graham, who has been published here at TWC more times than I can count! It's obvious that we think the world of Taylor and that she's a fantastic poet, so we sent over the standard questions to her and hoped she'd have the time to answer them, and she responded the same day! So how exactly did Taylor answer our questions? See for yourself?


1. What or who gives you inspiration and perspiration?

Dogs, nature, places. Every time I see a fox, a poem comes of it. The next most reliable trigger is a challenge (prompt, assignment, whatever you want to call it). I’m in a small weekly workshop that does take-home assignments and on-the-spot exercises; and I check in on several online groups that do similar things. I love these challenges! They make me write poems I never would’ve written otherwise, and sometimes those poems needed writing.

2. Have you always wanted to write, or did you have a secret desire for something else, like spelunking?

When I was a kid I wanted to be a cowboy or a jockey, but the closest I’ve come is marrying a Forest Ranger who rode the range before I knew him. As far as creative pursuits, I grew up drawing and painting. Poetry never occurred to me. But in 10th grade I found that my fingers wouldn’t do what was in my head. At the same time, we studied Shakespeare, and that was it. I decided to be a poet; it took a good ten years before I wrote anything worth keeping.

3. Do awards and accolades make you swoon? Have there been any that you're particularly swoon-y about that you've gotten?

Awards are nice. My book The Downstairs Dance Floor won the Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize from Texas Review Press in 2005, and that was exciting at the time. There’s a tendency to think, if only I could win such-and-such, I will have “arrived.” But so far the awards haven’t changed anything. The poems are what’s important.

4. When you're not leaving your poetic footprint, what else in the world makes you warm and fuzzy?

Dogs, oak trees, a hike in the high country. Zucchini ripening in the garden. The natural world.

5. Give me names. Who are the best new poets, in your opinion?

I’m not sure who’s “new.” I especially admire A.E. Stallings; I can’t resist a really well-written, thoughtful, formal poem, and I love her treatment of myth. I like what I’ve read by David Bottoms, especially the poems about his dad. I never pass up a poem by Ted Kooser, Billy Collins, or Mary Oliver. Paul Zarzysky fits in so well with my old cowboy dream.

6. Best of the Net or Pushcart? Which matters more and why?

I’m sure they’re both important, but I’m generally disappointed in “best of” collections.

7. Then and now. What poem made you start writing and what poem do you absolutely love right this very moment?

Well, it’s a play, of course, but Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar was what made me want to write poems. In 11th and 12th grade I fell in love with Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dylan Thomas, and e.e. cummings. My all-time favorite poem is an eight-liner by Goethe, “Wanderers Nachtlied II,” but you have to read it in German. In English, a newer poem I love right now is Stallings’s “Extinction of Silence.”

8. Are online poetry 'zines a crushing blow to traditional print 'zines, or are they the meat and potatoes of the poetry world now? Also, which do you prefer?

I wouldn’t want to do without either. I love having a print journal in my hand. But I’ve run across good poets on the internet that I never might have found in print; there’s just so much more exposure for poet and reader alike. I’ve gotten emails from people in Australia, Germany, Singapore with feedback on my poems. That just doesn’t happen with print, at least not for me.

9. Where do you see yourself and your poems in five years?

I think I’ll still be plugging away on my current project, poems about the American peace activist Elihu Burritt, the Learned Blacksmith. He was a distant relation of mine. I’ve always been fascinated by languages, and he taught himself to read 50 of them while working at the forge. He was also a prolific writer, so there’s lot of material. And I expect I’ll also be writing non-Elihu poems, as I do now, poems about dogs and oak trees, and getting older, and what’s happening to places I love.

10. What are the ingredients for a tasty poem?

For me, sensory details. I get nervous around too many abstractions. I like to be taken somewhere I’ve never been and shown something I don’t know. A really good poem will be music without the instruments.





Current Issue: July 2009



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