New and Selected Poems
By John Taggart
Gathering the best work from nearly forty years of a important innovator in American poetry
Is Music—a 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. There is a prayerful quality to Taggart's poetry, rooted in music—from medieval Christian traditions and soul to American punk rock. He is also heavily influenced by the visual arts, most notably in his classic "Slow Song for Mark Rothko," in which he did with words what Rothko did with paint and dye.
"A fearsome intelligence wedded to a kind of craftsmanship that happens once or twice a generation."—Stop Press
"In the lovely sonnet ‘Orange Berries Dark Green Leaves,' Taggart seems to look at nature himself, rather than through another artist's eyes: ‘Darkened not completely dark let us walk in the darkened field/trees in the field outlined against that which is less dark.' Is Music contains many such pieces, a wealth of sublime and quiet poems; they are unlike anything being written today, and like good music they stay in the mind."—The Antioch Review
"John Taggart has long been a master of accumulating complexly layered patterns of sound and sense."—Robert Creeley
"John Taggart's poetry is not like music, it is music."—George Oppen
"The long overdue selection of John Taggart's work, Is Music, reminds us that a good deal of his work, in cutting new songs from old, is transcription. ‘Marvin Gaye Suite' opens with the opening of the soul singer's album, What's Going On: ‘17 seconds of party formulaics by professional football players / intro of 17 seconds of hey man what's happening and right on.' Like Gaye's voice throughout the album, the voice in Taggart's poem—and this is true throughout his work - is multitracked into a call and response with itself and with the world."—Sink
To breathe and stretch one's arms again
to breathe through the mouth to breathe to
breathe through the mouth to utter in
the most quiet way not to whisper not to whisper
to breathe through the mouth in the most quiet way to
breathe to sing to breathe to sing to breathe
to sing the most quiet way.
To sing to light the most quiet light in darkness
singing light in darkness.
To sing as the host sings in his house.
John Taggart is the author of fourteen books of poetry and two books of criticism. He was, for many years, a professor of English and director of the Interdisciplinary Arts Program at Shippensburg University. He lives near Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.