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Something About Something: An Interview with Poet Shelly Taylor

By       Message Bill Wetzel     Permalink
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BW: You seem like a hopeless romantic to me. You make frequent references to Miss Kitty and Marshal Dillon in your book. They, of course, are characters from the radio and television show "Gunsmoke". Marshal Dillon and Miss Kitty had a special relationship, yet, famously, he was reluctant to marry.    Miss Kitty loved a man she could never really be with so she was destined to always be alone.    Can you talk about the love themes in your book? Also who is Miss Kitty to you, maybe yourself or someone you know?

 ST: I liken myself to Miss Kitty because in a lot of ways I don't think I'll marry unless I can finally pick a good man & I haven't seemed to do that kind of thing in the past.   I idolize Kitty in a way for her bravado & vulnerability when it comes to her Mr. Dillon.   Plus I just love "Gunsmoke."   I have been with Marshal Dillon all my life save the couple of men who weren't Dillon enough, & I didn't exactly want to marry Marshal Dillon had he got down on one knee.   Disaster:   Miss Kitty was probably lucky as are most women who don't marry their Dillons though they usually do & it's some messed up stuff to see.   I don't really think I'm a hopeless romantic at all.   Which probably means I am.   Anyway my relationship to most men has mostly been tenuous at best though I poetically admire women characters/figures who express great vulnerability as does Miss Kitty, who no doubt yearned for her figurehead to settle with her into some kind of Wild West utopia that couldn't have been because people [men] don't change much.   A lot of these types of women make appearances Heifer even if I do not name them.   I like these women.

BW: You write: "After kissing they don't turn, he packs his things, she will never make a family, she might have used to, she's now a horse".

As I wrote in the introduction, you sold your horse so that you could move to Tucson and attend grad school. In the previous question I say you seem like a hopeless romantic and here you seem to be comparing a woman looking for love and a family to a horse. Is the horse a metaphor for someone who is, in a sense, discarded by a person they love? What other themes does the horse represent throughout your book? Loneliness?

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 ST: The horse is everything.   I'm still not over the horse I sold to help out w/ grad school costs & I probably shouldn't have done it.   I didn't necessarily have to but I wanted to not rely on my family so much financially & so I did it.   I wish I hadn't cause the people I sold the horse to ran the horse into the ground & he's probably dead now.   [Southern women are often fatalistic.]   The family & love thing has to amount to the horse's worth & that's a big thing, hard to come by--I could grow old with my cats & my horses & good friends, though I don't give up some "hope" for a good male figure; I just don't see it work for most folks out there that I love/d & all that of course comes out in the poetry because that's life.   Last week while in Bridgetown, I had a dream mama & daddy bought the horse back for me & so I awoke & put the coffee on & walked down to the barn & he wasn't there so I wept a little bit.   I'm still not over it.   Me discarding the horse haunts me & I think I pay for that a little bit every day, so there's that kind of regret shot-through Heifer--"when you sell a horse he will not come back, no; put a carnation in your buttonhole" from "Keylight".   My bike in Brooklyn was the horse.   The horse is mindfully there when the man fails.   I cannot help it--when I sit to write the horse always comes out because I hold space (& regret) for him in my mind.   The second book is still dealing w/ the horse.   Maybe by book six I'll have sorted it all out.

 

BW: I find you to be hilarious. Sometimes it's subtle, but the humor in your work is definitely there. Same with sexuality, like when a cheerleader raises her skirt and you write: "the crowd goes       shame you're wrong".    Can you discuss the roles of both humor and sexuality in your work?

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ST: It's subconscious in the work.   I don't think I tried to be anything at all--neither funny nor sexual--it's just human nature to be a funny sexual creature, yes? 

BW: You're a former state barrel racing champion, you have had two chapbooks and a full-length collection of poetry out well before you turned 30, I wouldn't say you have a chip on your shoulder but you seem hypercompetitive and almost relish accomplishing things that people doubt you can do.    So what's next for you? In writing and in life?

ST: In truth I've always been way too competitive for my own good, way too strong for my own good, & mostly type-A to a fault.   What's next for me is finishing my second book--Lions, Remonstrance, Fatale, Blue--which should be done in a year or so, hopefully less.   I'm more than halfway through & I'm in Key West this summer which should help me get it done because I'm not going to be socializing as much as I would in Tucson.   I'd like to write a novel after the second book is finished.   I've started one but don't like it very much yet cause I only put five months into it & can't write dialog or scenes to save my ass, though I'm learning to be more patient with myself.   My mama says never pray for more patience because that means the Lord will send you constant trials & tribulations to help you improve yourself in the way in which you seek, & so I don't anymore--I just give myself time to work through things.   I want to get another horse & start rodeoing again.   I've got ten years to win the NFR in Vegas which I said I'd do by 40, meaning yes I'll be 30 soon & I usually keep my promises to myself.   I want to keep teaching poetry & hopefully one day that'll turn into something more lucrative than the community college because God knows I'm sick of bartending though of course I'm the best but it wears me out on every level imaginable.   What's next has to always be joy & trying for joy & of course adventures.  

 

 

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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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