Tuesday, 29 September 2020

American Life in Poetry: Art and Life

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

Lovers of poetry will be pleased to learn that Louisiana State University Press has just published Pulitzer Prize winner Henry Taylor’s new and selected poems, “This Tilted World is Where I Live.”

Some of his finest poems are longer than the space this column permits, but here’s a shorter one that will give you a taste. Taylor lives in New Mexico.

Art and Life

In the Portland Museum of Art’s snack bar
one July morning, a young woman worked
at the board that lists the specials of the day.
From her little stepladder she leaned in

with various colored chalks, using both point
and edge, adjusting with her fingertips,
experimenting with size and color, print
and script, once or twice stepping down and back,

then homing in on what was to be solved.
The whole thing might have taken her ten minutes.
At last she moved a little farther back
to see how what she’d done had changed the room,

while we, who had the good luck to be there
at the beginning of her day, beheld
the change she couldn’t know that she had wrought
merely by how her red hair caught the light.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Henry Taylor, “Art and Life," from This Tilted World is Where I Live, (Louisiana State University Press, 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Henry Taylor and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

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