116.1: Ken Taylor:: black mountain & poem for tuba & trombone 116

After checking out Ken Taylor’s website, I can’t shake the feeling that his poetry and his pastels are deeply connected. The two poems selected for this week are, like many of his pastels, compositions built from swatches. Unit by unit, phrase by phrase, I’ve come to appreciate Taylor’s poetry as a symphony of shades. Rather than muddy his compositions, Taylor gives his phrases the room to speak, alter, and ultimately harmonize.

Take the poem “black mountain.” A naturalistic description moves to the poet’s mother moves to a surreal image moves to aesthetic observation. Etcetera. Don’t misunderstand me: I couldn’t be happier paraphrasing Taylor’s work; the act of paraphrasing Taylor’s work for the reader takes away the feeling that we are jumping from one coherent statement to another without always understanding how we made the leap in the first place. That’s the art of the swatch. And it works as beautifully in Taylor’s pastels as it does in his poetry. Ryan Winet

black mountain

          for J. Peter Moore

along the drive the rhododendron crease
& wait. my mother’s mother praised these
days. a star fell from the ceiling in my
father’s house & made the vacuum smoke.
wood smoke on cerulean. i have another
dream of jean charlot passed by every son
& so & not seen: stalks all approaching
to raze studies above: hand shades eyes.

over the song & tear-sheet numbers: will
trade for local soul: meat on metal on wood
he took up the brio & choired three minute
ten inch wax. the unraveling treble clef was
trouble: & threw a rod wheeling his necker
knob: best delta poison in the whiskey.

poem for tuba & trombone

all this difficult brass waits for the minor
chords & shuttlecocks playing out troubles.
hands that milled cotton in the old armory.
sons & daughters still wish in mill houses.
nastic bubble of winds sight-reading four
crooked letters. strings re-tuned to slide.
about embouchure & toe-tap. tongued
notes & pressure. repetition of middle B.

fishermen lower hats on graveyard creek
bridge while his slow procession rolls by:
code of bottomland & eroded red clay roads.
code of the tallapoosa. we lower namesake.
clear every waterkey. blue tailgate & contra-
bass clamber to soughing adrift in kudzu.