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The Forage Houseby: Tess Taylor
Publication Date: August 2013
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Attic boxes full of shards. Family stories full of secrets. A grandchild wondering what to save and what to throw away seeks to make sense of what it means to inherit anything at all. In The Forage House, Tess Taylor?s anticipated lyric debut, the speaker unravels a rich and troubling history. Some of her ancestors were Randolph Jeffersons, one of Virginia?s most prominent slaveholding families. Some were New England missionaries. Some were dirt-poor Appalachians. And one was the brilliant, controversial Thomas Jefferson. Taylor herself is a Californian, who grew up a continent away from each of these worlds. Shuttling between legend and story, history and family tale, these poems visit cluttered attics, torn wills, and marked and unmarked graves. They explore the decline of a family home, record the death of a matriarch, and visit restless ghosts. Working alongside historians and archaeologists, Taylor unearths buttons, pipes, and the accidental unearthings of a busy state building its new freeway. Based in years of research and travel, these poems form a kind of lyric journalism, collaged from tantalizing fragments.
Moving between past and present, East and West, these poems record an uneasy genealogist struggling with ambiguous legacy. They ask what family stories contain, what they leave out, and how fragments exert force now. The Forage House is personal?--rooted in lived bodies, physical experience, travel--?but it is not solitary. Questions of what to save and what to reinvent, what is said and what is left out, are also political. What lies on the margins of a story or utterance? How do we access what we cannot know about the past? These poems dance between inheritance and loss, reimagining ?illuminating lies.? In their hunger to assemble and remember, they also forge a new record of struggle and love: ?how much I wish for will not be recorded.?
Praise for The Forage House
"Tess Taylors The Forage House is a brave and compelling collection that bears witness to the journey of historical discovery. Sifting through archives, artifact, and souvenir, Taylor presents a dialectic of whats recorded and whats not, unearthing the traces that give way to her own historyand a vital link to our shared American past. Whats here and accounted for draws us powerfully toward whats absent; what seems complete here never issomething as fragmented as history in the language, as haunted too."
"Ezra Pounds definition of the epic'A poem containing history' demands courage and intellectual range, as well as lyrical gifts. Tess Taylor meets that challenge in The Forage House. A figure of epic scale, Taylors Thomas Jefferson is tragic as well: 'ambitious foundering father.' The poise, candor and reach of this bookwith a vision that embraces the enigmas of contemporary El Cerrito along with those of the slave-owner Jeffersonare deeply impressive.
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The Forage House
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