Is Music — "the first major retrospective of an American original—gathers the best poems from John Taggart's fourteen volumes, ranging from early Objectivist experiments and jazz-influenced, improvisational pieces to longer, breathtaking compositions regarded as underground masterpieces." from Copper Canyon Press.
I first heard of John Taggart just a few months ago in Peter O'Leary's excellent Gnostic Contagion and I knew I wanted to see his work. Coincidentally this new collection is just published and I have it hot off the presses. I will not pretend to be a critic - maybe twenty more years reading & writing poetry before I try that - but this is a book for the ages. Or so it seems to me. These are poems as beautiful, musical and haunting as any I know. I'm particularly struck by the fact that the collection includes two pieces concerning the paintings of Mark Rothko whose work has been much on my mind the last few years. (See for instance Schama's Power of Art.) Read some poems first - but here is a lovely interview from Flash Point. In this interview I discover that not only did Taggart teach at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania for many years, which I already knew, but that George Butterick, the great scholar of Charles Olson, taught at nearby Wilson College in Chambersburg - where some time later I spent 9 years teaching biology and environmental studies. It is a small world indeed. And there is also this: LRL #4 Special Issue on Taggart