Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Stunned by this 1975 photograph of John Taggart, George Oppen and Ted Enslin included in the Taggart feature edited by Matthew Cooperman for J2. Credited to Jennifer Taggart, the overcast setting of the photograph complements the austerity of the stones upon which the three are seated. 1975.

The J2 feature—which includes commentaries from Peter O'Leary, Karl Young, Pam Rehm, Mark Scroggins, Joseph Donahue, Stephen Ratcliffe, Patrick Pritchett, Brad Vogler, Marjorie Welish, Jon Thompson, Eléna Rivera and Robert Bertholf, along with work from Taggart himself—reminds me of the Taggart feature edited by CJ Martin and Thom Donovan in the 2009 number of Little Red Leaves. Rather than commentaries, the LRL festschrift includes poems written for and after Taggart by Ted Enslin, Pan Rehm, Eléna Rivera, Joel Chace, Kevin Holden, Frank Sherlock, Martin and Donovan. The LRL feature also includes an incredibly useful selected bibliography compiled by Robert Bertholf while the Bertholf piece on Taggart at J2 focuses on two books: Unveiling / Marianne Moore (Atticus / Finch 2007) and There Are Birds (Flood Editions 2008).

As I understand it, There Are Birds contains the whole of Unveiling / Marianne Moore. Both titles are remarkable, each carefully attending through their construction to the poems they embody. The cover for There Are Birds offers what is perhaps one of Ralph Eugene Meatyard's grittier, least representative and more phantasmagoric photographs. But the earlier Atticus / Finch title is somehow starker and considerably more desolate in appearance. Designed, printed and published by Michael Cross while at Buffalo, the lines from Unveiling / Marianne Moore included on the back cover are congruent with the starkness of the book's appearance: "Skinny tree sparsely branched lacking | a felicitous phrase to begin."

Given Taggart's enduring affinity for Oppen, such lines could easily serve as a descriptive epigraph for the whole of Oppen's oeuvre. Spot on in the most curious way. Sparse—the austerity of this—that language, like bread or milk, is not to be wasted.