Public Program: Poet Tess Taylor on Researching at AAS

We’ve had an interesting lineup of public programs so far this spring, exploring everything from nineteenth-century theater and attitudes towards alcohol to what life was like for free and enslaved African Americans in Massachusetts during the prelude to the Revolutionary War.

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 29, at 7:00 p.m., we’ll continue our series with a talk by poet Tess Taylor called “Sifting the Uneven Archive: Researching the The Forage House.

Tess TaylorIn this program, Taylor will recount how a residency here at AAS helped her as she researched and wrote her latest book of poems, The Forage House. Her poems layer oral histories, documents, and folksongs to craft an exploration of her ancestors- a mix of New England missionaries and Southern slave owners, including Thomas Jefferson. Taylor’s poems are as much about the imperfect material of family stories as they are about the politically charged material of history. Natasha Trethewey, our current poet laureate, described The Forage House as “a brave and compelling collection that bears witness to the journey of historical discovery. Sifting through archives, artifact, and souvenir, Taylor presents dialectic of what’s recorded and what is not, unearthing the traces that give way to her own history – and a vital link to our shared American past.” Taylor researched The Forage House as a Robert and Charlotte Baron Creative Artist Fellow in 2006.

Tess Taylor’s poetry and nonfiction have appeared in The Atlantic, Boston Review, Harvard Review, Literary Imagination, The Times Literary Supplement, and The New Yorker. She currently reviews poetry for NPR’s All Things Considered and teaches writing at the University of California, Berkeley. You can listen to some of Taylor’s spots on NPR here and here.

This spring’s public programs series will conclude on Tuesday, June 10, with a talk by John Demos titled “On the Trail of the ‘Heathen School’: Local History, American History, and World History” about his new book.

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