WORK & DAYS
“Our moment’s Georgic”— Stephen Burt
In 2010, Tess Taylor was awarded the Amy Clampitt Fellowship. Her prize: A rent-free year in a cottage in the Berkshires, where she could finish a first book. But Taylor—outside the city for the first time in nearly a decade, and trying to conceive her first child—found herself alone. To break up her days, she began to intern on a small farm, planting leeks, turning compost, and weeding kale. In this calendric cycle of 28 poems, Taylor describes the work of this year, considering what attending to vegetables on a small field might achieve now. Against a backdrop of drone strikes, “methamphetamine and global economic crisis,” these poems embark on a rich exploration of season, self, food, and place. Threading through the farm poets—Hesiod, Virgil, and John Clare—Taylor revisits the project of small scale farming at the troubled beginning of the 21st century. In poems full of bounty, loss and the mysteries of the body, Taylor offers a rich, severe, memorable meditation about what it means to try to connect our bodies, and our time on earth.
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"Bay Area native Tess Taylor chronicles a farming year in her radiant second collection, Work & Days... Attuned to the earth, Taylor possesses a gift for lucid imagery and a sharp eye for detail. She’s a literary descendant of Jane Hirshfield, informed by classical farm poets Hesiod and Virgil... Work & Days moves beyond the personal and the pastoral; its poems resonate with a felt awareness of the larger world, the shadows of war and environmental crisis..."
--The San Francisco Chronicle
"(This) lapidary, moving book... shows that across thousands of years, these smallest acts—to grow, harvest, mourn—still remain central to lyric utterance. Is such a pastoral sensibility possible in the mediated world of 21st century American life? Taylor’s answer is not only yes, but to focus on the thousands of workers both here and abroad who live a life based on laboring with the earth. These subtle poems, like those that explore her lineage to the Jefferson family in her first book, are not without harder-to-confront agonies. As she draws the world... proximate to touch, the intuited sense of apocalypse—whether ecological disaster, or global political chaos—draws closer... (as well.)"
--LitHub's “30 Poets You Should be Reading”
"Taylor contemplates the invisible threads that tie the individual body to the numerous bodies scattered across the planet... Taylor's engagement with the poetry of agriculture reveals a deep sense of humility and a newfound gratitude for life itself."
"It’s wonderfully carnal, that savoring that carries all the way into darkness... The opposite of error, here, is not correctness—it’s life, and the hunger for life, for the vegetables that turn dark soil and the day’s light into sweetness... and for our own conversions, too..."
"Tess Taylor’s poetry… points to her craft and artifice… in preternatural lyrics about the cycle of the seasons (with) austere, resonant and sometimes terrifying subjects... formal, darkling poems… her project—the wages of war, labor, ecological violence—is revealing yet further urgent contexts for poetry.”
--Barnes & Noble Review
"On an aesthetic level, the music of this collection is exquisite and hearty fare... This is a stunning collection; technically gorgeous. Tess Taylor is poised to enrich our meager time on this earth with her nourishing, beautiful book."
--Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal
"...in an era when distraction endlessly beckons from tiny screens in the palms of our hands, [Taylor] says farming can help reconnect us to the world."
--The Salt @ NPR
"...with [Taylor's] consciousness, evocative and redolent of the hard sensory clarity of the earth, come also intimations of apocalyptic time as much around the world as here at home."
“... a book… of great immersion, in both landscape and thought.”
"...we feel her muscles singing."
“Work & Days is our moment’s georgic, our lyric book about labor and retreat, security and greenness, a book with “a thousand leeks to plant” and also a lament, in “cello tones . . . It is not coming back.” It is vividly seen but also full of open space: Taylor invites us . . . into a seasonal cycle that’s not what it was, that reflects a changing earth, but one that nevertheless looks back to antiquity fully persuaded that its traditions are here for us too.”
“The shape of a day, a year, a life; the press of mortality; the clutch of soil; the specific angles of light in each season: Work & Days takes the measure of a contemporary life anchoring itself, provisionally, in a farming year. The beauty here co-exists with rot, ripeness with blight. Taylor’s poems are lean, her imagination and reckoning rich. The turn of the plow offers one of the oldest images of the turnings of verse: Taylor’s poems carve their own furrow in our common soil—a line between wanting and getting, working and hoping, learning and failing, losing and making. This is a severe, attentive book, paradoxically lush in its very stringencies. Despite all, ‘a throaty world sings ripen.’”
“Taylor is geologically, biologically, and morally alert. With a naturalist’s painterly and wide-open gaze, she includes crises of war and environment alongside the actual, detailed labors of greenhouse and field. This book presents the knowledge of labor in many forms: its ripening in gardens and farms, culture and birth-giving, an inseparable part of our days’ broader makings within the ‘chapped farmhouse’ that houses our hard-won, shared fates amid the existence of all.”
Tess's first book, The Forage House, was hailed as "stunning"
The Forage House was selected for The Believer Poetry Award Editor's Short List. The San Francisco Chronicle calls it "stunning."
Oxford American calls it "visceral, densely detailed and frequently playful."
Guernica lists it as an editor's pick for 2013.
Barnes and Noble Review praises its "lightning flashes of lyric."
Publisher's Weekly calls it one of this season's four most exciting poetry titles.
Library Journal calls it "a rare view of our history, deepened with mystery."
Order a copy of The Forage House.