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Tess Taylor in conversation with Nathan Heller: Rift Zone & Last West

April 24, 2022 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm PDT

Rift Zone, Taylor’s much-anticipated fourth 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–an American elegy equally tuned to maternal and to geologic time. At once sorrowful and furious, tender and fierce, Rift Zone is startlingly observant, relentlessly curious–a fearsome tremor of a book.

Acclaimed American poet Tess Taylor responds to Dorothea Lange’s photography with a new work

In Last West, poet Tess Taylor follows Dorothea Lange’s winding paths across California during the Great Depression and in its immediate aftermath. On these journeys, Lange photographed migrant laborers, Dust Bowl refugees, tent cities and Japanese American internment camps. Taylor’s hybrid text collages lyric and oral histories against Lange’s own journals and notebook fragments, framing the ways social and ecological injustices of the past rhyme eerily with those of the present. The result is a stunning meditation on movement, landscape and place.

“Scintillatingly rendered by Taylor as conversation, meditation, road trip, and vivid documentary account, Last West tracks the not-so-distant past into the erupting present, taking on as many poetic forms as there are California topographies.” -Forrest Gander, Chancellor of the American Academy of Poets and winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Tess Taylor is the author of five collections of poetry, including The Misremembered World, selected by Eavan Boland for the Poetry Society of America’s inaugural chapbook fellowship, and The Forage House, called “stunning” by The San Francisco ChronicleWork & Days was named one of The New York Times best books of poetry of 2016.  In spring 2020 she published two books of poems. Last West was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art as a part of the Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures exhibition; Rift Zone, from Red Hen Press,  was hailed as “brilliant” in the LA Times and named one of the best books of 2020 by The Boston Globe. Taylor has  served as on-air poetry reviewer for NPR’s All Things Considered for over a decade.  She is currently on the faculty of Ashland University’s Low-Res MFA Creative Writing Program.

Nathan Heller has been a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine since 2013 and a finalist for a National Magazine Award for essays and criticism. His work has been anthologized in the Best American series and elsewhere, and he has served as an essayist for the “PBS NewsHour.” Before coming to The New Yorker, he wrote for the New York Times MagazineNew YorkRolling StoneThe New Republic, and elsewhere. He is at work on a book about the Bay Area.


April 24, 2022
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm PDT


Book Passage – Corte Madera
51 Tamal Vista Blvd
Corte Madera, CA 94925 United States
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