Henry Taylor Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although Henry Taylor is known primarily for his poetry collections, he has also published a number of significant works in other genres. Competent in several languages, his translations include Euripides’ The Children of Herakles (1981; with Robert A. Brooks) and Bulgarian poet Vladimir Levchev’s Leaves from the Dry Tree (1996) and Black Book of the Endangered Species (1999). Taylor’s translations of international writers’ poetry were printed in Crossing the River: Selected Poems Translated from the Hebrew/Moshe Dor (1989; Seymour Mayne, editor), Window on the Black Sea: Bulgarian Poetry in Translation (1992; Richard Harteis, editor, with William Meredith), and World Literature Today (Winter, 1993).

Taylor has also been active as a literary scholar and critic, having published the text Poetry: Points of Departure (1974). Taylor’s scholarship includes articles in Masterplots; Magill’s Literary Annual, for which he served as a consultant and associate editor in the early 1970’s; and The Pure Clear Word: Essays on the Poetry of James Wright (1982; Dave Smith, editor). His Compulsory Figures: Essays on Recent American Poets, a collection of critical essays on the works of seventeen twentieth century American poets, was published in 1992.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Richard Dillard observed in Hollins Critic that Henry Taylor’s poems have “all the ring and authority of an American [Thomas] Hardy, intensely aware of the darkness that moves around us and in us.” Taylor’s pronounced sense of irony, combined with a style that tends decidedly toward the formal, distinguishes his poetry from that of many of his contemporaries. His disciplined, introspective style has garnered recognition and praise from a wide array of sources. Taylor won awards from the Academy of American Poets in 1962 and 1964 while he was a University of Virginia undergraduate. He received prizes for his poetry from the Utah State Institute of Fine Arts in 1969 and 1971. The National Endowment for the Arts presented Taylor a 1978 creative writing fellowship, then continued to fund his work. Taylor received a research grant in 1980 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to examine his native Loudoun Valley’s culture. The Virginia Commission for the Arts also granted Taylor a fellowship. In 1984, he was awarded the Witter Bynner Prize for Poetry by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, which later presented Taylor the Michael Braude Award in 2002. Taylor attained one of poetry’s highest honors, the Pulitzer Prize, in 1986 for The Flying Change. The American Literary Translators Association’s Washington Chapter gave Taylor its 1989 Golden Crane Award. He also received the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry in 2004 from Sewanee Review. The Louisiana State University Press presented Taylor with its 2006 L. E. Phillabaum Poetry Award for Crooked Run.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

“Books by Our Editors.” Hollins Critic 43, no. 5 (December, 2006): 21. Reviews Crooked Run and two books by Garrett. This concise evaluation of Taylor’s work notes how it recalls a vanishing culture in a rural locale intrinsic to the poet’s life and that his memories, local history knowledge, literary depictions of time, and appreciation of absurdity effectively shape his poetry.

Grossberg, Benjamin S. Review of Crooked Run. Antioch Review 64, no. 4 (Fall, 2006): 828. Succinct review examines literary techniques that Taylor uses to depict history in his poetry, analyzing how he effectively shows how the past is essential to modern perceptions and comprehension of place and people. Discusses the roles of memory, contemplation, self-preservation, and loss.

Hall, Sharon K., ed. Contemporary Literary Criticism: Yearbook 1986. Vol. 44. Detroit: Gale Research, 1987. Provides selections from the major critical responses to Taylor’s most widely reviewed book of poetry, The Flying Change. Contains the reactions of several critics, including Daniel L. Guillory, Joseph Parisi, and Reed Whittemore.

Parrish, Nancy C. Lee Smith, Annie Dillard, and the Hollins Group: A Genesis of Writers. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998. Although this book focuses on female writers, it depicts the Hollins creative writing community, including faculty and visiting writers, at the time when Taylor was a graduate student. Provides quotations and information concerning Taylor’s time on campus and continued affiliation with his alma mater.

Pfefferle, W. T. Poets on Place: Tales and Interviews from the Road. Foreword by David St. John. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2005. Describes the author’s visit with Taylor, who was his M.F.A. adviser at American University, and his interview, in which they discuss the literary impact of setting and Taylor’s incorporation of storytelling elements in poetry. Taylor makes references to Crooked Run. Supplemented with Taylor’s poem “Harvest” and a photograph of him.

Sharp, Nicholas A. “Taylor’s ’One Morning, Shoeing Horses.’” Explicator 57, no. 1 (Fall, 1998): 62-65. A close examination of “One Morning, Shoeing Horses,” a sonnet from Understanding Fiction.

Turner, Daniel Cross. “Restoration, Metanostalgia, and Critical Memory: Forms of Nostalgia in Contemporary Southern Poetry.” Southern Literary Journal 40, no. 2 (Spring, 2008): 182-206. Studies Taylor’s poems, in addition to work by Donald Justice and George Scarbrough, regarding how their poetry conforms to or rejects the expected literary style associated with southern writers, specifically their implementation of sentimental elements.