WHAT’S LIGHTING US UP: KEITH TAYLOR’S GLADNESS

I WAS A FAN of Keith Taylor’s nature essays and poetry for years before we met, so it’s probably not surprising that I liked him from the first time we shook hands. It was at the first Bear River Writers Conference, on Walloon Lake, Michigan, in 2000, and I liked him so much that I decided we would be friends for life, whether he wanted it or not.

We’ve been pals ever since, and my appreciation for his work just grows stronger. Every Keith Taylor book is extraordinary for its openness, candor, and clarity, and his observations are always sharp and fresh. Consider this, from his new chapbook, Fidelities:

GREEN LIGHT

just for a few weeks, from full summer

into September, on quiet days,

warm, humid but not hot—and the light

above the river turns green, like leaves,

reeds, water weeds or water itself

on its gently inexorable

slide through hills to the blue lakes beyond.

 

Keith travels widely, reads everything, and is one of those people who thinks deeply about the world and our place in it, so I’m always interested in what’s on his mind. I asked him to tell us what he’s been enthusiastic about lately, and his response is pure Taylor:

Oh, I wanted it to be something big! A big book that I could feel was changing my life even as I read it. Proust or Wittgenstein or something! Or something cool out there in the popular culture—a song, a movie, hell, I’d settle for a television show—so I could establish some kind of cultural cred. Or an adventure, undertaken or just planned. Australia, maybe. South Africa. Uzbekistan. Somewhere. Or a poem, one of those that came out of nowhere and just picked up the world, moved it a quarter of an inch, and changed everything (“We must have/the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless/furnace of this world.” Jack Gilbert, “A Brief for the Defense.”). I wanted it to be my rage at oppression and prejudice, but this week I just feel tired. I’m sorry. I’ll be outraged by something next week, I’m sure.

But, no, all I got was one tiny little bird, barely two inches long in a beat-up city park next to a freeway and a factory. A Northern Parula Warbler. A blue-gray back broken around the shoulders by a greenish haze. Two shades of yellow on the upper breast separated by a deep orangish/red band. The lower belly a pure white. It’s song some musical chips followed by a buzzing call. You can see and hear it here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Parula/id.

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

It landed just above my head in an invasive honey-suckle early Monday morning, just before a rain shower. It was on it’s way from somewhere in the tropics to its breeding range in the Upper Peninsula or north of Superior. It sang and sang, right into the rain. I had to leave and it was still singing.

And its light has filled me for the past two days. I’m sorry but that’s it. One little bird I saw when I was alone.

—Keith Taylor’s most recent chapbook is Fidelities: A Chronology (http://www.alicegreene.com/publications/fidelities-a-chronology/). He teaches a little at the University of Michigan.

 

7 thoughts on “WHAT’S LIGHTING US UP: KEITH TAYLOR’S GLADNESS

  1. Pingback: New Books!

  2. Arthur Ofieldstream

    Yes. That’s all. Once again proving that the greatest movement we can ever be part of is the one that takes place in our own perspective. Within that grey mass, spanning a common 5.6 inches between the right and left ear of the human skull.

    We may urgently desire to be a part of something great. That is a good – as a driver. In which its greater purpose will be as a clarifier. One for which we see better, the values that come to us on a regular basis, with clearer eyes. Opened through the convexity of greater vision made possible by the stretch to see more.

    Enabling us to see the greater values of the world at arm’s length, while stretching to see the limits of possible.

    Ah yes. That’s all indeed.

    AOF

    Reply
    1. Jerry Dennis Post author

      That’s wonderful, AOF. It’s always been about finding clarity. Thank you.

      Reply
  3. Anne-Marie Oomen

    One little bird but what a journey. Every spring when the warblers come through–and I don’t know them as Keith does–I think of that migration. Their song, then gone. Yup, thanks to Keith for shining the light of their bird song on us for a bit.

    Reply
    1. Jerry Dennis Post author

      Thank you, Anne-Marie. There must be a lesson in the birds—”their song, then gone”—but I’m so enchanted watching them and listening to them that I keep forgetting the lessons I’ve learned.

      Reply
  4. Annis Pratt

    :”‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers-
    That perches in the soul-
    And sings the tune without the words-
    And never stops – at all -” Emily Dickinson
    Every spring on the Betsie River there is a bird that sings all day long. Sometimes it is the Song Sparrow, but more often the Maryland Yellowthroat (nothing common about it!). And my heart sings with it.

    Reply
    1. Jerry Dennis Post author

      Ah, Annis, that’s one of my favorite E.D. poems— I think of it every year at this time. You’re lucky to be visited by the “common” yellowthroat with its “wickity, wickity, wickity” song. I agree: it’s not common at all. Are ornithologists calling it the “Maryland Yellowthroat” now?

      Reply



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