Rift Zone

Rift Zone, Taylor’s anticipated third book, traces literal and metaphoric fault lines— rifts between past and present, childhood and adulthood, what is and what was. Circling Taylor’s hometown— an ordinary California suburb lying along the Hayward fault— these poems unearth strata that include a Spanish land grant, a bloody land grab, gun violence, valley girls, strip malls, redwood trees, and the painful history of Japanese internment.

Taylor’s ambitious and masterful poems read her home state’s historic violence against our world’s current unsteadinesses—mass eviction, housing crises, deportation, inequality. They also ponder what it means to try to bring up children along these rifts. What emerges is a powerful core sample of America at the brink—American elegy equally tuned to maternal and to geologic time. At once sorrowful and furious, tender and fierce, Rift Zone is startingly observant, relentlessly curious—a fearsome tremor of a book.


“The poet for our moment.”—Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic

“In Rift Zone, Tess Taylor’s brilliant third collection, we encounter a magisterial range of subjects, from the geologic to the civic to the intimately personal. This book is a confident poetic engagement with the vital issues of our time, including the disastrous consequences of human activity on our climate, and its effect on the public and private spheres. Rooted in the shifting California landscape, this elegiac yet hopeful book is a necessary addition to the corpus of work dedicated to grieving the world as we know it.” —Ada Limón, Bright Dead Things

An orange background with a drawing of the state of California at the center and dark blue script that reads Rift Zone poems by Tess Taylor.

Tess Taylor ( Author Website )

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Poetry, Red Hen Press

$16.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 978-1-59709-776-5


An article by Tess Taylor, author of RIFT ZONE, is featured in Harper’s Magazine!

Throughout his political career, Joe Biden has frequently invoked his favorite poet, Seamus Heaney. Accepting the Democratic nomination for president, Biden quoted Heaney’s “The Cure at Troy,” an adaptation of Sophocles’ play Philoctetes, which posits that “once in a lifetime / the longed-for tidal wave / of justice can rise up / and hope and history rhyme.” Months later, after the brutal attack […]

Poets Corner reading to feature RIFT ZONE author Tess Taylor!

MIDCOAST — On Sunday, June 13, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., inaugural poet Richard Blanco will appear on ThePoetsCorner.org in conversation with fellow poets Tess Taylor and Rick Barot, brought to the public in collaboration with Maine Media Workshops + College. These three poets are teaching workshops and craft seminars during Maine Media’s third annual Writers Harbor Poetry […]

Tess Taylor, “how verse can provide solace,” on PBS New Hour!

For many, it’s a time of uncertainty and isolation. But in poet Tess Taylor’s humble opinion, turning to verse can provide solace. Her recent book of poems is “Rift Zone,” and the following essay is part of our arts and culture series, “CANVAS.” Watch here!

Tess Taylor featured on CNN!

Before the pandemic hit, playwright Matthew-Lee Erlbach was working on a play about American labor movements between 1890 and 1920 — an era that many associate with seamstresses jumping out of a burning factory during the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Upton Sinclair’s exposés of foul meat factory buildings or Mother Jones’ tireless organizing on behalf of […]

Tess Taylor’s RIFT ZONE longlisted for the Believer Book Awards!

Each year, the editors of The Believer present awards to the works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry they find to be the best written and most underappreciated. For the first time ever, we’re honoring comics and graphic work in a distinct Graphic Narrative category. Below are the longlists of nominees for each category. The short lists and […]

RIFT ZONE by Tess Taylor, is a Boston Globe favorite!

RIFT ZONE BY TESS TAYLOR Taylor released two books this year: a Dorothea Lange documentary project, and this collection of original poems that mine personal, California, American history, and changes in climate and ecosystems for shimmering, shattering beauty. — Jason Myers

New Poetry Evokes A Fractured Landscape

Book tours have been canceled since shelter-in-place began, so we’re bringing Bay Area author readings to you as part of our “New Arrivals” series. This one is from El Cerrito author Tess Taylor reading from her new poetry collection, “Rift Zone.” Listen to the full reading here.

A Poet of Found Language Who Finds Her Language in Archives

“One must cross the threshold heart of words,” Susan Howe writes early in her new book, “Concordance,” an appealingly jagged sequence of collage poems. The “threshold heart,” for Howe, is a kind of echo chamber where sound dazzles the inner ear and resonance dances with meaning. To invite us into this complex space, Howe populates […]

Datebook: How Bay Area authors stay creative amid the coronavirus pandemic

Poet Tess Taylor questioned what it means to be creative, when every day feels like a radical reinvention of life. “These days, helping myself and my family steer a way around sadness, anger, grief, loneliness, boredom or despair feels like its own art form. This emotional work of getting around and through takes time, even before the […]

CNN: Tell us what you’re reading right now

Reading literature can give us a place to turn right now — and not just because it’s comforting. It’s because it helps us grapple with enormous ruptures in time. There’s been much discussion of how much we need books right now, to comfort, distract, or console us from the pandemic and its toxic effects. I’m […]

‘A Community Of Desperation’ Finding Sympathy And Solidarity In Dorothea Lange

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST: Photographer Dorothea Lange had an eye for capturing what was going on around her – the Great Depression, Japanese American internment camps during World War II. Her most famous portrait is of a migrant mother, her face lined with worry. In February, a retrospective of Lange’s work opened at New York […]

The Harvard Review Online features “Found Poem: Pocket Geology”

Atop               the Earth’s mantle, rock moving:               Continents are milk skin floating on cocoa.               A restless interior               sweeps them along. In trenches                                            minerals decay— at the core                        landmasses digest                  themselves. The crust does not movein one piece                      but in segments. Mostly these carrya continent with them, but sometimes              continentand mantle un-couple— then blocks tilt                                            like sidewalk on unstable ground—

The Yale Review features “Song with Day Glo & Jello”

Hulky & afloat on seas of parkingthe old Plaza                          dated from the fifties— sold Day Glo Ice & jelly shoes,new Sweet Valley High & sour candy.  Our flock would  flock to Woolworths,buy 99-­cent Wet & Wild to line our lips.  We wandered home between the glaze […]

El Cerrito poet, NPR correspondent Tess Taylor pens new books

EL CERRITO — Local poet Tess Taylor has recently released her fourth book, had one of its poems published in the New York Times and wrote an opinion piece for CNN about the significance of reading literature during a global quarantine. With hair salons shut down during the novel coronavirus shelter order, she also gave […]

Zyzzyva’s “The Intimacy of Breath” Essay by Tess Taylor

Here is the strange thing: I was already writing poems about the precariousness of California. I’d been writing them for ten years, since I moved back from New York and came back to the East Bay after two decades away. That was 2011. I had just had a baby. At first, it seemed like I was […]

A Modern-Day Bay Area Poet Recreated the Journey of Legendary Photographer Dorothea Lange

“She inspired me as a model of persistence.”  So says Tess Taylor, a poet in the Bay Area, who undertook the journey once travelled by Dorothea Lange, the extraordinary woman photographer. Last West: Roadsongs for Dorothea Lange, is Taylor’s work in conjunction with the sweeping retrospective of Lange’s work Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures at the Museum of […]


Tess Taylor’s RIFT ZONE reviewed on West Branch!

Like many devoted bibliophiles, I love to visit archives. I sigh contentedly while enacting the familiar rituals of shutting the locker door on all of my belongings except two mechanical pencils and a notebook. It’s such a feeling of curious hope to fill out the little slips of paper that send a librarian down an […]

RIFT ZONE by Tess Taylor reviewed by Reader Views!

“Rift Zone” by Tess Taylor, is a powerful, moving collection of poetry giving voice to the voiceless, and to those who express theirs in a whisper, a whimper, a growl, or a scream–whatever the utterance may be. These poems describe rifts in various forms–rifts in society, rifts in the earth, rifts among people and ideas, […]

LA Review of Books analyzes and reviews Tess Taylor’s thoughtful works

“The poems in Rift Zone exist in a moment before rupture, an overhang of historic land fractured by histories revised and erased. Taylor magnifies these tensions when she recalls the instabilities of her adolescence. Moments from her upbringing in a suburb “clean as a lobotomy” take place against the vastness of geologic space-time — “the Earth’s mantle, […]