Poetry and Illustration with
Keith Taylor and Tom Pohrt
Keith Taylor has authored or edited 16 books and chapbooks, including his most recent small collection, Fidelities (Alice Greene and Co., 2015). His last full length collection was If the World Becomes So Bright, and his next one, The Bird-while, will be published by Wayne State University Press in February, 2017. He has also co-edited several collections of fiction and non-fiction, including a recent collection of contemporary Michigan ghost stories. His poems, stories, reviews and translations have appeared widely in North America and in Europe. He has received Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. He teaches at the University of Michigan where he also serves as Associate Editor of Michigan Quarterly Review and director of the Bear River Writers Conference. He spends his summers teaching at the University of Michigan Biological Station near Pellston.
Illustrator and children's author Tom Pohrt grew up in the automobile-manufacturing town of Flint, Michigan. A self-taught artist whose love of animals is evident in his artwork, Pohrt has been interested in writing and drawing ever since he was a little boy. Despite his lack of guidance as a youngster, Pohrt has become a well-established illustrator, working with texts by authors such as Philippa Pierce, Julia Durango, and Jim Harrison as well as penning the text for two self-illustrated books featuring his original stories. "The precise, delicate lines of his drawings, coupled with his slightly moody, sepia-toned palette, suggest antique etchings," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor in reviewing Pohrt's work for Howard Norman's Trickster and the Fainting Birds, the critic dubbing the picture book "beautifully designed and presented."
Pohrt is the winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for Children's Poetry, 2004, for The Wishing Bone and Other Poems by Stephen Mitchell; American Library Association Notable Children's Book designation, 2004, for The Little Gentleman by Philippa Pearce.
The Bird-while is a collection of forty-nine poems that meditate on the nature-both human and non-human-that surrounds us daily. Taylor is in the company of naturalist poets such as Gary Snyder and Mary Oliver-poets who often drew from an Emersonian sensibility to create art that awakens the mind to its corresponding truths in the natural world. The book ranges from the longer poem to the eight line, unrhymed stanza similar to that of the T'ang poet Han-Shan. And without section breaks to reinforce the passing of time, the collection creates greater fluidity of movement from one poem to the next, as if there is no beginning or end, only an eternal moment that is suspended on the page. Tom Pohrt's original illustrations are scattered throughout the text, adding a stunning visual element to the already vivid language. The book moves from the author's travel accounts to the destruction of the natural world, even species extinction, to more hopeful poems of survival and the return of wildness. The natural rhythm is at times marred by the disturbances of the twenty-first century that come blaring into these meditations, as when a National Guard jet rumbles over the treeline upsetting a hummingbird, and yet, even the hummingbird is able to regain its balance and continue as before. At its core, Taylor's collection is a reminder of Emerson's idea that natural facts are symbols of spiritual facts.