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
1. What or who gives you inspiration and
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
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
3. Do awards and accolades make you swoon? Have there
been any that you're particularly swoon-y about that
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
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
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
Mary Oliver. Paul Zarzysky fits in so well with
my old cowboy dream.
6. Best of the Net or Pushcart? Which matters more and
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
“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
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
I think I’ll still be plugging away on my current
project, poems about the American peace activist
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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