Work & Days

“Our moment’s Georgic”— Stephen Burt

The New York Times named it one of the best books of poetry of 2016.
LitHub's “30 Poets You Should be Reading”
LA Review of Books calls Taylor’s lyrics richly spare and compressed as seed…
Publishers Weekly  calls it "a newfound gratitude for life itself."
Slate.com calls it  "wonderfully carnal"
Barnes & Noble Review  "reveals...context for poetry.”
The Salt @ NPR " [Taylor] says farming can help reconnect us to the world."
LitHub  calls it "evocative"
Kirkus Reviews calls it “... a book… of great immersion, in both landscape and thought.”
Library Journal writes "...we feel her muscles singing."
The Rumpus Poetry Book Club chats with Tess about Work & Days

 

LISTEN to Tess talk about Work & Days on the Late Night Conversation @ Late Night Library.

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.

"(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.)
—Stephen Burt


Praise for Work & Days

“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.” 
—Stephen Burt

“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.’”
—Maureen McLane

“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.”
—Jane Hirshfield