Taylor Graham: Poet Interview

The next poet in the Top 25 series from the 2013 April PAD Challenge has made herself known so well that I feel she doesn’t need an introduction. But here’s the thing: Taylor Graham is not a person who talks much about herself; rather, she just writes incredible poems. In addition to making the Top 25 list, she is the current co-champion of the 2013 November PAD Chapbook Challenge (with Joseph Mills).

Taylor Graham and her dogs.

Taylor Graham and her dogs.

For almost 40 years, Taylor has trained her German Shepherds for search-and-rescue, in Alaska, Virginia, and California, and she’s responded as a volunteer to hundreds of searches for missing people. Her poems appear widely online and in print, and she’s included in the anthologies Villanelles (Everyman’s Library) and California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University). Her book, The Downstairs Dance Floor, was awarded the Robert Philips Poetry Chapbook Prize. Her collection Walking with Elihu: poems on Elihu Burritt, the Learned Blacksmith is available on Amazon, as is What the Wind Says (Lummox Press). Learn more about Taylor at her website, www.somersetsunset.net.

Here’s the poem I chose for the Top 25:

Lexicographer’s Daughter, by Taylor Graham

Angle brackets. Binomials of exotic
species. Boldface colons: how he spends
his days, and then files it all away.

She sneaks past the capitalizing labels
of his books; riffles pages; spreads
young (also called curious) angel wings.

She’s outgrown every pair of shoes.


Where are you located?

I live outside Placerville, California, in the Sierra foothills with my husband, two German Shepherds we train for search-and-rescue, and six sheep.

Who are your favorite poets?

In high school, I fell in love with Gerard Manley Hopkins, e.e. cummings, and Dylan Thomas, and they’re still my favorites, along with A.E. Stallings, Mary Oliver, James Wright, and Billy Collins.

As a reader, what do you like most in poems?

I like to be shown something new, or see it in a different light – leaps of thought and language to transform the world. If a poet writes in form and handles the form very well, that’s an added pleasure. I like a poem to perform some sort of magic for me.

What were your goals for the 2013 April PAD Challenge?

To get out of my rational “this and therefore that” frame of mind, to let in some playfulness, serendipity, adventure; to see things from a different point of view; to end up somewhere I didn’t expect.

What’s next for you?

I’ve been writing a lot of dog poems over the past year and a half, bringing up old adventures I’ve had, mostly from search-and-rescue. I have a book-length collection due out from Lummox Press toward the end of 2013 or early 2014, titled What the Wind Says.

Beyond that, I can’t seem to stop writing about dogs and what I learn from them; some of the poems are taking mythic turns. So I’ll just see where this leads.


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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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13 thoughts on “Taylor Graham: Poet Interview

  1. Hannah

    It is such a joy to learn more about Taylor…her work has been such an inspiration to me!!

    I’m not surprised that Mary Oliver is among your favorite…like Mary, your poetry bears an awesome earth connectedness and an authentic, grounded voice…I always get a sense of presence and satisfaction out of your words, Taylor.

    Thank you both, Robert and Taylor, for bringing this interview to the poetic peeps. 🙂

  2. Jane Shlensky

    Taylor, you’ve been on my “watch and read list” since I first came to PA. I love your work and look forward to whatever new angle of vision you discover. Congrats!

  3. De Jackson

    I have watched your amazing dog poems (among others, of course) unfold for several years now. I will be seeking out that book!

    Your passion and brilliance SHINE. So good to know a little more about you, here. Congratulations!

  4. PKP

    Taylor- As you know I love the dogs – love the poetry and in the natural order of things adore the poet.
    You are extraordinarily gifted and truly under-recognized for the truly great poet you are. Wonderful to read this interview here – I simply am certain that there is greatness shared with a vast audience in your future.
    All my best . Thank you RLB for this interview 🙂

  5. Michelle Hed

    Hello Taylor! I love your poetry! I have your collection of dog poetry, “What the Wind Says” and it is excellent. I admire and respect you, your husband and your dogs for your incredible rescue efforts. What a gift you have given us with your amazing rescue efforts and your writing! Thank you so much for sharing both!

  6. Marie Elena

    The one I’ve been waiting for.


    Robert hit the nail on the head … you don’t say much about yourself, you simply write incredible poetry. It is so good to learn just a touch of what drives you as a human being. Bless your heart, Taylor. Your rescue efforts are much appreciated by someone like me, who has never known anyone who has needed such a service … I can only imagine how those you’ve helped feel.

    I wish I could adequately express how impressive your poetry is to me. Your poems consistently stop me in my tracks to ponder and “think on these things.” I feel blessed to have you at my fingertips.


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