Tess Taylor’s debut book of poetry, The Forage House, is a lyric wonder rich with the complications of an Old South genealogy. Though she was born in California, Taylor is related to rural Appalachians, New England missionaries, and a powerful and political slave-holding family from Virginia: the Jeffersons (yes, those Jeffersons). In The Forage House, we find Taylor haunted by her family’s past, navigating between legend and truth, marked and unmarked graves, trying to make sense of a deep-rooted history.
Some thirty or forty linear feet of my poetry library played a minor role in the movie The Portrait, starring Lauren Bacall and Gregory Peck. A minor role in a minor movie. It was directed by Arthur Penn, but it is no Bonnie and Clyde by any tally. That saddens me, as I was a Penn fan and I had a pleasant talk with him on the movie set, mainly about our mutual friend, the poet Richard Wilbur.
The book is a collection of essays, authored by local and outside artists, geographers, cartographers, bakers, horticulturists, and one criminal defense lawyer, that describe the city of New Orleans—not only the physical, but also the invisible and the transient.
Big-Eyed Afraid comprises five numbered sections, demarcations tracking the linear progression from youth to adulthood, and the milestones in between. Yet the poems defy this neat organization, each an intimate case study of identity; they are frank interrogations of family, race, gender, mental illness, and the forces that shape us.