The Forage House

Red Hen. Aug. 2013. 88p. ISBN 9781597092708. pap. $17.95. POETRY
In her debut collection, following receipt of the Poetry Society of America's chapbook fellowship, Taylor explores one family's past in some fine historical poems, several containing "found" lines (from the will of the speaker's ancestor and a Jefferson-era housewife's list, for instance). On slave ancestors, he writes, "Light gilds granite stones. Winds / hold renegade voices fugitive," while Jefferson is admonished that he has "two families:/ legitimate & illegitimate,/ two rivers proceeding out from you." Taylor explores the African American part of Jefferson's family, which was burdened with Jefferson's debt but not his fame. Also included are poems of place, including some about smaller California cities. When wedded to history and nature, Taylor's work connects emotionally: "Coffins built/ in the Susquehanna foothills of the forever mountains." Occasionally, some poems veer toward flat endings or awkward phrasing—"Just before Exit 67, purple clouds heap up"—but Taylor's powers of description are usually deft.
VERDICT This first collection reveals a poet with a fully formed voice and involving subject matter ("You came/ in ripped jeans from California and tasted// their seed, their curd, their underworld of 80 proof…"), and the genealogy she presents provides a rare view of our history, deepened with mystery.
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