The Forage House

Attic boxes full of shards. Family stories full of secrets. A grandchild wondering what to save and what to throw away tries 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 the Randolph Jeffersons, one of Virginia’s most prominent slaveholding families. Some were New England missionaries. Some were dirtpoor 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. Many of the poems were written while Taylor was in residence at Monticello, working in dialog with top historians and archaeologists there. Based in years of research and travel, these poems form a lyric journalism, collaged from tantalizing fragments. Moving between past and present, east and west, they reveal an uneasy genealogist struggling with ambiguous legacy. The 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.”


Attic boxes full of shards. Family stories full of secrets. A grandchild wondering what to save and what to throw away tries 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 the Randolph Jeffersons, one of Virginia’s most prominent slaveholding families. Some were New England missionaries. Some were dirtpoor 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. Many of the poems were written while Taylor was in residence at Monticello, working in dialog with top historians and archaeologists there. Based in years of research and travel, these poems form a lyric journalism, collaged from tantalizing fragments. Moving between past and present, east and west, they reveal an uneasy genealogist struggling with ambiguous legacy. The 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 Taylor’s 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 what’s recorded and what’s not, unearthing the traces that give way to her own history—and a vital link to our shared American past. What’s here and accounted for draws us powerfully toward what’s absent; what seems complete here never is—something as fragmented as history in the language, as haunted too.”—Natasha Trethewey

“Ezra Pound’s 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, Taylor’s Thomas Jefferson is tragic as well: ‘ambitious foundering father.’ The poise, candor and reach of this book—with a vision that embraces the enigmas of contemporary El Cerrito along with those of the slave-owner Jefferson—are deeply impressive.”—Robert Pinsky


Tess Taylor ( Author Website )

Publication Date: August 1, 2013

Genre/Imprint: Poetry, Red Hen Press

$17.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 978-1-59709-270-8

Download the Press Kit Here

News

Tess Taylor’s Incredible Family Journey

Tess Taylor has had an amazing journey of discovery these past few months. Her debut poetry collection, The Forage House, chronicles the exploration of her familial lineage and ties to Thomas […]

Tess Taylor Interviewed by The Poetry Foundation

In an interview with The Poetry Foundation's Stacey Lynn Brown, Tess Taylor discusses her collection of poetry, The Forage House, and her connection to her famous ancestor, Thomas Jefferson. Taylor […]

Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle praises The Forage House

Carmela Ciuraru from the San Francisco Chronicle calls Tess Taylor's The Forage House a "stunning debut collection."- "The most fascinating biographical fact about Taylor is not that she can trace […]

Oxford American loves The Forage House

Camille Guillot from Oxford American praises the "curated mood of a small museum" present in Tess Taylor's The Forage House.- "Every so often there is a book of poetry that […]

The Forage House featured in Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly praises the "close attention to the texture and sound of language" in the poems found in Tess Taylor's The Forage House.– "The confessional and historical poems in Taylor’s […]

Doris Lynch reviews The Forage House

Doris Lynch discusses her take on Tess Taylor's The Forage House. “This first collection reveals a poet with a fully formed voice and involving subject matter…the genealogy she presents provides […]
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