Henry Splawn Taylor was born in 1942 in Loudoun County, Virginia. His father, Thomas Edward Taylor, was a high school English teacher and dairy farmer who encouraged his son to recognize literary elements of poetry. Taylor’s mother, Mary Marshall (Splawn) Taylor, was an economist and the daughter of Dr. Walter M. W. Splawn, an economics professor, university president, and lawyer who served as the federal Interstate Commerce Commission chairman in the mid-1930’s. Taylor and his three sisters grew up near the Lincoln community on farmland owned by his paternal grandparents that had belonged to the Taylor family since the late eighteenth century. Taylor’s family and artistic neighbors shaped his appreciation for cultural activities. He attended public schools in Loudoun County for nine grades before enrolling in the George School, a Quaker boarding institution in Pennsylvania, by 1958. At that school, Taylor aspired to become a writer. He competed in track and equestrian sports.
In 1960, Taylor began studies at the University of Virginia. As an undergraduate, he served as editor of the literary magazine Plume and Sword, participated in the campus drama club the Virginia Players, and was mentored in poetry by Fred Bornhauser and George Garrett. His erratic academic performance resulted in him withdrawing from classes. He used his time off to write poetry that he published in New Writing from Virginia (1963), Shenandoah, The Sixties, Georgia Review, Encounter, and other publications. Taylor resumed course work, graduating with a B.A. in English in 1965. He secured a book contract from the Louisiana State University Press for his debut poetry collection, which was published as The Horse Show at Midnight in 1966. Taylor married Sarah Bean in June, 1965. That year, he enrolled in the graduate creative writing program at Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia, writing poems for that school’s literary magazine, Cargoes. Garrett anthologized Taylor’s short story, “And Bid a Fond Farewell to Tennessee,” written at Hollins, in The Girl in the Black Raincoat (1966). Annie...
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