Shelly Taylor

Introduced by
Arianne Zwartjes

One of the most exciting things happening in the world of the writerly these days is the frequent blurring of lines, blending of genres, the twisting, if you will, of straight lines in the realm of language. As a reader (and writer) who has become fairly discontent with the emptiness or hollowness of purely experimental poetry, while still holding onto an enchantment with the idea of breaking open our language, rescuing it from the triteness of consumer culture, I find myself constantly on the lookout for writing which breaks the norms of genre and syntax and yet is connective—writing which finds a way to embody (and dares to embody) emotion, without falling into sentimentality.

To me, Shelly Taylor's poems do both—cross lines between poetry and prose; find ways to rupture syntax that are always circular, always carry the thread along nonetheless, seem more a delighting liltful ride than a disembodied shatter. They needn't move forward in any sort of linear manner, and yet they accrue—something builds along the way—and at the end you feel you have entered a world full of all sorts of vibrant, intriguing details and characters—and not only that, but you have been offered real connection to that world, in a tone that moves from being forthrightly somber, meditative, and imaginative, to purely playful.

And Shelly's poems are so full of her voice—when I read them I can hear her soft, slow southern voice carefully pronouncing each word. There is a speaker consistently present within each piece; without them ever becoming what I would call "narrative" poems, they never abandon a rootedness in some anchor, some personhood which is unafraid to tangibly approach emotion, but skillfully evades cliche or sentimentality.

I am delighted and honored to have the opportunity to introduce the words & work of a writer I think well worth a read. [AZ]



Granny gather your geese my
wolf usually ends us badly. This stereotypic land gash, ooh land
mine—deep swallowing of the ting that opens
the belly pit—& it is open. And it is red. Your words means a lot
they hellhole themselves a they, they don't
wear platforms (are not my bestest friend when I
need the heating pad) or do a look back: h. bogart-style
stern face insinuating things they might miss very much & wanna
crackle open, no foolin'. This is just to say the harder I look
the more I want to. And so I pose, cycles wax my ass to the next,
next—we too posers, auto-shut eye & as usual I get my
feet into it & drink of. Self ain't your born center, away; I got a line
of mine on into Malaysia like a sisterhood. But someone better
take care of that one—his they
has gone & sold my rollerblades bell up on a hap
temple, is more close to a self center than I know how to fill
the story in for. They his souses with spray & never
looks a shoulder back boastful on the silver screen or something
like it. His runs away on a zeppelin for America sing-clapping like mad.



With naughty pin-pusher, wants a mahogany closet
whip set. With blood as pin-pushed cushioning tomatoes, denouncing
the salt & pepper I lick-tongue the plate in my eye mask
& am sleeping. Housewren fish hair ribbon from your daughter's floating
wrist, they make crop circles about my irrigation foothold. With all her hands
tied a once said yes girl: thirty-nine steps, pull. Bones in my kitchen
sink watery weight. He trots his little pony, hoists up
a faux slingblade thing good for whipping, he pedophiles about
my jacket twine. With good riddance, this legend of car driving Billie Jean across
the more ground turning she shorns my long hair clean off. Kettle black
you get escapist marauder, a man up 6 foot a back & jockeying. I won't understand
her staying young in it. Skins bell the cups up: needs
him chillier, sticks one toe through the dust clears—I startle,
goodness, her leg knocks the lamp sure off the nightstand.



The television horse is dying. Pow, the man's hand ejecting bullets & I know all about the back bang. The sand with the horse's blood, suffused—the sand white a pale moon high & right in the midday, the woman's hair nearby, red. Every time she looks up is a body. It might've well been hers, this juncture on a map where no one looks back at the sound of a shot, a horse lying on the white sand, horse blood. She is tiny in relation to the gunman so are we. The market fills, one having nothing to do with the other, oranges are bought. With practical decision-making: factor in this, that—I know no matter who I call, that horse will probably die. Mama says she's seen this episode, that at some point all this'll get on, go easier. But why did that man not know the ailment, have banamine black bag handy for the mainlining, thump & jugular-prod, make the horse not walk it off? I see the practiced tongue-over-the-bit loll, the on-cue moan, the red-headed woman's too late before the firing, sir hey sir how much for the horse?  You think I'm the one that sold the horse. I think the lifeguard stand painted festive blue may as well be a beacon against all the white, the I can—can I not, be no more a part of all this, that's bleeding out?



The firstfruit ripens. The way
out's the same as in: ifs
so steep I'm breakneck 'round the sides
of this molehill. Until the last henchman

hauls the whole into the vale. Not your slow stow
to a model harvest? Is more akin
to what's behind: hole dug & leveled  
my frayed selvage core, & I'm rummaging 

each prop room for where I begot my sunbonnet
to yesterday's hands-up hinterland. 
What goes follows does, father plummets, good
plastic measuring stick & the leg works.

Spatterdock, pew back & knee high
to Galilee, lays its limbs

on the roadside. I've a snag in my stockings.
All the while mindful

of the color turn—a tongue
to taste the change pronounced clean & yet I'm bottomed

farther, father harnessed, the not-rights.
Blink once & the eyemark moves you up

ahead, says hallelujah. I may be
with the rain pipe on this one.

Will-o'-the wisp on down the skin
of the street's sidearm—blacktop

to gutter & under. Better I go
my end-all, be-all. For I cannot ram the stopcocks, 

through & plow like hell. A deathwatch then
watchmaker? My improbable hands

busy, this sink as sump? It's only a quay to that other world
keeps me up & up nighttimes. Wooden breakage

off the ledges—I suffer
the heavy shadows: the suspense of my wills

or otherwise...etc. He does more
than return breakfasts full flesh the prodigal son.

Spills my milk, says sorry, says gospel
girl means good news. No more

a trough then these feeding breasts,
my father's second daughter. Silent

footwork & news, therefore able, takes.
It exoduses me off his eyebrow line.




"For love" is partly inspired by Creeley's mastery of the line as rotating universe. Also, from an obsession with the 1954 "Sabrina" with Hepburn, Bogart, & Holden (the 'zeppelin' bit is a loosely translated line of Hepburn's from the tennis court scene). I love Whitman's idea of an unseen & all prevailing presence in most of the poems from Leaves of Grass. Section 11 from 'Song of Myself' Whitman has an invisible hand that 'souses with spray' his 'twenty-eight young men' bathers.

"One shackle" developed out of my love for Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" which is & will always be my favorite 80's song. I was also influenced by old wild western phenomena: gunslingin' & of course horses. There is also something of S&M here—power struggles in relationships, as well as the caring stance women take with other women in times of need.

"Ruth starts early, visits the sea" is writing from an episode of Six Feet Under—the one where Ruth & Bettina take a 'wild' trip down to Mexico & Ruth's rent-a-horse collapses on the shore. I did a whole series of "mama says" poems at a time when I was phone-talking with my mom every day & could not get her voice out of my head.

"Ritual idol" is straight-up biblical... & southern.