University of Michigan English professor Keith Taylor will be reading his most recent poetry collection “The Bird-While” at Literati Friday evening.
The title and theme of his new collection is inspired by a quote from one of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s journals: “A Bird-while. In a natural chronometer, a Bird-while may be admitted as one of the metres, since the space most of the wild birds will allow you to make your observations on them when they alight near you in the woods, is a pretty equal and familiar measure” (Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Journal, 1838).
Taylor said much of his work is based on nature, and is often compared to many Eastern meditative poets who focus on the natural world in their work. “The Bird-While” is a collection of 49 poems which focus on the nature world that surrounds us in our daily lives. He hopes that many of the poems come across as intense and meaningful, as he’s devoted nine years to creating this collection.
In regards to both his writing career and his personal life, Taylor, a renowned poet and essayist, said he always chooses to “follow the love.”
Taylor is a Canadian immigrant who came to midwestern America in the 1960s at age 11. Having endured a childhood in which he was made fun of and pushed aside for being different, he knew he wanted to be a writer when writing became an outlet to prove himself.
Taylor’s journey through the arts has been diverse and unique. He grew up in a conservative and religious household, had a challenging move across countries and found art at a very young age. At 17, he wanted to be a bookseller in Europe, so he spent part of his life a traveling there and across the United States with little to no money before choosing to follow the woman he was in love with to Ann Arbor, Michigan. The two still live in Ann Arbor and have a 25-year-old daughter.
After selling books for eight years at the original Border’s bookstore on State Street and one other smaller bookstore, and getting a fellowship in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, Taylor claims his work became “legitimized.” Soon after, Taylor was offered a position as a professor at the University of Michigan.
“The measure of a culture has always been in its arts,” Taylor said. He is an advocate for a strong sense of unity between artists, especially for the future. Taylor urges all young artists to never stop writing, even when it may seem easy to give up in such struggling times in our communities and our country.
Taylor’s poems, stories, book reviews, essays and articles have appeared in magazines and newspapers around the country. His poetry collections have been published into multiple books, and he is a well known author in the Ann Arbor community and beyond.
One of the most interesting things about speaking with Keith Taylor is his unique sense of passion. When confronted with adversity in his life, his resilience to continue his work in writing allowed his career to flourish. He had mentioned that people did not recognize his work until after he turned 50, but that never stopped him from creating art before that. His sense of pride, keen intelligence, love for the arts and drive for creative writing can be considered a story of perseverance and fervor.