Tess Taylor is the author of the poetry collections Work & Days and The Forage House. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in the Atlantic, the Boston Review, the Harvard Review, Literary Imagination, the Times Literary Supplement, Memorious, and the New Yorker. She was the 2017 Distinguished Fulbright U.S. Scholar at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University in Belfast and the 2018 Anne Spencer Poet-in-Residence at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Anne Spencer’s ecosystem of art and activism
As I read, I fell in love with Anne Spencer’s fierceness and wit. In some ways, she reminded me of my own grandmother—a voluble woman, gardener, and scrawler of notes on the back of lists. Finding Spencer’s scraps, I felt the same sort of matriarchal literary presence amid the dailiness of domestic life: glimpses of how an ambitious, literary-minded woman might manage a house.
As we’ve watched Confederate flags come down across the country, as cities have begun to have new and healthy debates about the place of their Confederate monuments, I’ve spent time thinking about my ancestor Bennett Taylor. I’ve been meditating on the difference between why it feels useful to remember him, and what it means to memorialize the Confederacy publically.