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Something About Something: An Interview with Poet Shelly Taylor

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After receiving her MFA, Taylor then moved to Brooklyn, a place of which she says she just had: "an attraction." While there she bartended and taught at Empire State College and in 2008 became involved as a mentor in the "Girls Write Now" organization.   She and her mentoree, a young high school student named Cammy Li, were chosen to do a Voice of America spotlight piece. As of now, Cammy has just finished her junior year of college at the New School.

Still in 2008, Taylor became burned out on the city and decided to move back to Tucson where she continued bartending and writing. She soon published two chapbooks:"Peaches the Yes-Girl "(Portable Press at YoYo Labs, 2008) and "Land Wide to Get a Hold Lost In" (Dancing Girl Press, 2009), which ended up comprising most of her first full-length manuscript,   "Black-Eyed Heifer", which was published by Tarpaulin Sky Press in 2010. "Black-Eyed Heifer" of which she simply refers to as "Heifer" was well received and named one of the top 30 poetry books of 2010 by Coldfront Magazine.

As of now, Taylor has been teaching at Pima Community College in Tucson for the last year and is spending the summer in Key West while working on another book that she describes as "half done" and "more accessible" than her previous work.   She also plans to write a novel in the future.

Now back to that something.

I hate to admit it. Interviews are not my thing. Writing an intro essay isn't in my nature. I have wrestled with this, not been comfortable with it, tried like hell to be a little objective then tried not to sound too gushing. The thing is I probably have done Shelly a bit of a disservice by getting too close to her.   We have a budding friendship, two people who love to write, come from the country, grew up rodeoing and live on the other side of the country from our homes and families, all to chase a similar dream. To be a writer. A largely thankless, moneyless profession you have to almost be haunted by to even want to attempt. It's more like something you can't escape than anything. I think we basically "get" that about each other. But I like her too much as a person to stand back and be an independent observer.

So I won't pretend to be.    

 I love her writing. She has a risky love of language that immediately made me a fan. I like visiting with her on the phone, she's charming, engaging, fun and loves to laugh. And she's the same in person. Probably even more so.   There is probably a good chance we will be friends for a long time. I certainly hope so.

As for that something?

I think I figured that out.

I first met her when she did a reading with the legendary Jim Harrison at the Tucson Festival of Books a few months ago.   She was fantastic. Mesmerizing.   She stood out to me.   (I later recalled seeing her at other readings in Tucson, where she stood out to me there too) I thought there was something extraordinary about her. Not in a superficial way. I could care less about that. But substantively.

Think of how her grandmother thought of her. There is a reason she was her grandmother's favorite, that she believed Shelly would be a famous writer some day.  

Or Gordon Massman who says: "Life is a LP album and Shelly knows how to lift the player arm off the awful grooves and replace it on the beautiful, thereby creating a sumptuous symphony."

Or Mara Vahratian:   "When Shelly writes, her voice is her own, no one else could imagine the self or physical and emotional spaces in the way that she explores them. "

As a person and a poet, people see something special in Shelly Taylor. I know I certainly do. For awhile now, I have been tempted to just say that the something about her was "everything".

That would be too easy.

I thought what I was looking for may have been her determination. If you see her talk about how she wanted to get a book out before she was thirty or how she plans to win a barrel racing world title by the time she's forty, she'll get a fire in her eyes and an intense look on her face that will convince you she'll do exactly whatever she says she'll do. But as much as I would like to say that is what I have been looking for, I don't quite think it is.

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Bill Wetzel is Amskapi Pikuni aka Blackfeet from Montana. He's a former bull rider/wrestler turned writer and a coauthor of the short story collection "The Acorn Gathering." His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from the American Indian Culture (more...)
 
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1. What do you think of Shelly as a person? 2. Wha... by Bill Wetzel on Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 9:05:38 AM
you rodeo guys are nuts i met a guy in Ok... by Ned Lud on Sunday, Jun 12, 2011 at 8:48:37 AM
I am sure Shelly appreciates it too. Yes rodeo peo... by Bill Wetzel on Sunday, Jun 12, 2011 at 3:56:09 PM
I was pleased to find out about another horseman h... by Ned Lud on Sunday, Jun 12, 2011 at 5:59:03 PM
I didn't think, but I should have included this ea... by Bill Wetzel on Sunday, Jun 12, 2011 at 5:01:12 PM
I was looking in my notes and I misconstrued somet... by Bill Wetzel on Monday, Jun 13, 2011 at 7:01:16 PM