|BROADSTONE BOOKS presents
| From the title poem of this collection, we learn that a rain shadow is a trick of
climate and geography, whereby one side of a mountain may be “drenched and
verdant, a riot of green” while the other is “barren slope”
arid with elfin thickets of stunted growth
that thirst in sullen expectation.
In the masterful hands of Richard Taylor, this image becomes the perfect metaphor
for life, a border country between the hope of love and the inevitability of death. It
is also the organizing principle undergirding the three sections of this perfectly
The poems that make up the beginning section, “Darwin’s Witness,” are, in one way
or another, about love. Not the breathless giddy love of youth, but the cautious –
one might almost write, suspicious – possibility of love that comes after long
experience of life. It is the love that takes us unawares – that is, if we are willing to
take one more chance:
What is love, or life, if not a test of illusion
and faith, a readiness to accept what may not be,
what isn’t said, the burnt hand reaching out again?
The poems in the concluding section, “The Way of Things,” logically enough are
about death – the death of trees, of animals, of old friends and, most heartbreakingly,
the death of children:
One hand, one heart, for life ungloved.
Here too these poems convey the wisdom of experience, or its comfort, reading in
the blossom of a long-dormant flower
…a composite of the world
we know as much as it can be known,
cradle and coffin, resurrection and bloom.
Life is lived in the balance of love and death, and just so the poems of the middle
section “Braintree,” are poems about balancing, about living and, especially, of
living in communion with nature.
I know I will do this
until each dislocated thing
reaches its rightful home, I mine,
until everything seems right just as it is.
And everything does indeed seem just right in this volume, every word, every feeling
just as it should be, as it must be. In a final grace note, Taylor also painted the lovely
watercolor on the cover of the book – as if to say that even as accomplished a poet
as he may sometimes need more than words to express the fullness of life. This is,
in every way, the finest work yet from one of Kentucky’s finest authors.
|Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Paperback, 96 pages
Richard Taylor, a past Poet Laureate of Kentucky,
is Kenan Visiting Writer at Transylvania University in
Lexington. A co-owner of Poor Richard's Books in
Frankfort, he lives outside of that town in a one-
hundred-and-fifty-year-old house near Elkhorn Creek,
where he kayaks every chance he gets. Author of two
novels and several non-fiction books relating to
Kentucky history, this is his ninth book of poetry. He
is a former distinguished professor of English at
Kentucky State University and the recipient of
numerous awards, including two creative writing
fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Praise for Richard Taylor & Rain Shadow
It is a balm to read this quietly powerful book. The poems come from solitude and
close study of the immediate world with things in it, living and dying. Over and over
the poems in this book uncover wisdom and resonate, as a mind at once alert and
wholly arrived at peace. Richard Taylor makes this exalted state seem perfectly
What unifies Richard Taylor’s wonderful new collection, Rain Shadow, is what
T.S. Eliot termed "the objective correlative": something in nature that symbolizes or
objectifies a particular human longing or behavior and that may be used to evoke a
desired emotional response in the reader. In many of these poems, nature—in the
form of a maple tree, a "ribbon of snow," a potted fern, or a heron whose neck is
"like the handle of a folded umbrella"—provides Taylor with poetic fodder to link
fragile human emotions to the solid "thereness" just outside his kitchen window.
A strong example of this connection is the poem "Deliverance":
Finding two moths—cousins of those
that gnawed the shoulder off the jacket
I wear to weddings and funerals—
trapped on my screened-in porch this morning,
wings batting against the tiny grids,
agitated like prayer flags before a storm—
I cup one, then the other, in the haven
of my hands, ushering each past
the door jamb into unencumbered air—
in releasing them, releasing all of us.
"In releasing them, releasing all of us" is the perfect closure—something Taylor
excels in—to an experience in which human sensitivity is heightened to a level that
includes the alleviation of suffering and fear for even the smallest living things.
Rain Shadow contains some of Taylor’s strongest work. And though it’s his nature
poems I love best here, there are pleasures on every page.
This book explains much, / including how each of us / becomes each. The
mortality of people, the immortality of suffering. The interaction of shadow and
light. The trap-lines of relationships, the Terra Incognita of love, the salty pulsings
of reanimated hearts as well as the thermal broth of new prisons. The communion
with nature – knowing not only that a tree has fallen / but which tree. Reader, pick
up this book. It will move you deeply with its humanity, beauty and unprecedented
brightness. You cannot travel through its pages unchanged.