John Taggart: From his own words

A 2009 letter from Taggart to Joel Chace.

As Lorine Niedecker once wrote of Louis Zukofsky, I can write the same of John Taggart: “I [am] fortunate enough to call him friend and mentor.” I met John back in 1985 as a freshman at Shippensburg University. By some strange luck, I like to believe it was the hands of the gods, I was assigned John as my adviser. I was an undeclared major with “poetry” listed under Hobbies on my application.

Taggart: Sound and vision

[From a little over a decade ago — first published at Flashpoint — a meditation on what now — it seems clear — is to be considered “mid-period” Taggart, before the remarkable shift and efflorescence of Pastorelles and There Are Birds: the poetics of Standing Wave, Crosses, and above all that various and monumental collection Loop, a book which in my mind looms over American poetry of the 1980s and 1990s like the black monolith of Kubrick’s 2001 — or, more often, beckons like an enclave of vast, multilayered, shimmering Rothk

On singing and thinking

Taggart, George Oppen, and Ted Enslin, Sylvester’s Cove, Maine, 1975 (photo by Jennifer Taggart).

1. Under the heading “Poetry And Philosophy,” in an anthology of T. S. Eliot’s critical writings, there are several statements suggesting that poetry and thought are antithetical. For instance: “the poet who ‘thinks’ is merely the poet who can express the emotional equivalent of thought.”[1] And, writing of Dante and Shakespeare, Eliot claims that neither did any “real thinking,” but both made use of the thought of their times as “material enforced upon them” for the expression of their feelings.

Approaching Taggart chapel

Ritual, Rothko, and poetic form

Detail from the cover of a French translation of Taggart’s ‘Le Poèm de la Chapelle Rothko’ (Editions Royaumont, 1990).

We in the West, Lou Reed once complained, are denied our ritual, a complaint which is itself a kind of ritual, within art culture and perhaps more broadly, that has been practiced with dramatic results throughout the recent history of poetry and art in the West. Admittedly, the ritual Reed mourned the lack of was a particular one, that of hari-kari, so spectacularly performed, in what was then recent memory, by the Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima, having just addressed members of his private army from a banner-draped balustrade.

'Giant Steps': John Taggart's sheets of sound and messianic jazz

With special reference to Theodor Adorno

“How to stay alive” or, repetition