Taylor Graham: Poet Interview

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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.

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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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