Today's poetry for today's world

Marilyn L. Taylor                      


Marilyn L. Taylor, Ph.D., was appointed Poet Laureate of the state of Wisconsin for 2009 and 2010.  She taught for many years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for the Department of English and the Honors College , and has also served as Visiting Poet at many other venues within Wisconsin and throughout the country. The most recent of her six collections of poetry, titled Going Wrong, was published by Parallel Press in 2009. Taylor’s award-winning poems have appeared in many anthologies and journals, including The American Scholar, Poetry, Smartish Pace, Measure, and Mezzo Cammin. She is a Contributing Editor for THE WRITER magazine, where her articles on craft appear bi-monthly.                      




To buy Marilyn L. Taylor's books,

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Reading the Obituaries




Now the Barbaras have begun to die,

trailing their older sisters to the grave,

the Helens, Margies, Nans—who said goodbye

just days ago, it seems, taking their leave 

a step or two behind the hooded girls 

who bloomed and withered with the century—

the Dorotheas, Eleanors and Pearls

now swaying on the edge of memory.

Soon, soon, the scythe will sweep for Jeanne

and Angela, Patricia and Diane—

pause, and return for Karen and Christine

while Susan spends a sleepless night again. 

   Ah, Debra, how can you be growing old? 

   Jennifer, Michelle, your hands are cold.




--Originally published in The Formalist










The Blue Water Buffalo


    One in 250 Cambodians, or 40,000 people, have lost a limb to a landmine.

           —Newsfront, U.N. Development Programme  Communications Office 


On both sides of the screaming highway, the world

is made of emerald silk—sumptuous bolts of it,

stitched by threads of water into cushions

that shimmer and float on the Mekong's munificent glut. 


In between them plods the ancient buffalo—dark blue

in the steamy distance, and legless

where the surface of the ditch dissects

the body from its waterlogged supports below


or it might be a woman, up to her thighs

in the lukewarm ooze, bending at the waist

with the plain grace of habit, delving for weeds

in water that receives her wrist and forearm


as she feels for the alien stalk, the foreign blade

beneath that greenest of green coverlets

where brittle pods in their corroding skins

now shift, waiting to salt the fields with horror.




—Originally published in the Emily Dickinson Awards Anthology,

Universities West Press







The Lovers at Eighty




Fluted light from the window finds her

sleepless in the double bed, her eyes


measuring the chevron angle his knees make

under the coverlet.  She is trying to recall


the last time they made love.  It must have been

in shadows like these, the morning his hands


took their final tour along her shoulders and down

over the pearls of her vertebrae


to the cool dunes of her hips, his fingers

executing solemn little figures


of farewell.  Strange—it’s not so much

the long engagement as the disengagement


of their bodies that fills the hollow

curve of memory behind her eyes—


how the moist, lovestrung delicacy

with which they let each other go


had made a sound like taffeta

while decades flowed across them like a veil.




 --Originally published in the Indiana Review







Writer's Tip: Memories, Memories


Let’s say you’re trying to write a good poem about an experience that took place during your childhood or early adolescence.  To accomplish this, you must have at your disposal some memorable details about the incident you’ve chosen, and know the answers to the following questions:


1. Why is this incident still important to me?  

2. Have I made this reason relatively clear in the poem (even if it’s disguised)?

3. Have I selected the autobiographical details that will have meaning for my readers as well as for myself, even if I have to adjust them a little?

4.  What are my motives for sharing this particular experience?  (Be honest!)


Your answers will cause your reader to see the incident through your eyes, your imagery-- and understand why it remains important to you after all these years.  Because it goes beyond mere “confession”, it will have very good chance of becoming an effective and evocative poem.

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