The Other Side Of Ourselves. Rob Taylor. Cormorant Books. Markham, Ontario. 2011. 2nd printing 2012.
Rob Taylor is around 31 years of age and that came as a surprise to me. Not knowing the young Mr. Taylor personally, my assumption was that I was reading the poetry of a much older man.
Not that the poems are oldish, or old fashioned, or even dated, no, but they sure sound/read experienced.
Taylor won the 2010 Alfred G. Bailey Prize for Poetry, The Other Side Of Ourselves makes that look like a good choice.
In its' second printing The Other Side Of Ourselves is ample mirror to the different facets of us silly human beans.
Teaching Myself to Shave
I was some generic hair growing age
and my Mom had already bought
me a pack of deodorant (when I'd
started to stink) which happened
to contain a little shaving kit.
So when my first stubble crept out of my follicles
I prodded at it with my fingers for a few days then
walked to the bathroom, lathered up the cream
and dragged the razor about,
then I threw on the aftershave
and didn't even scream
(though I was prepared to)
and wherever I cut myself
I put a dab of toilet paper
just like Homer Simpson
And that was that--
my stubble was gone,
my father was still dead
and the Sunday evening cartoons
weren't about to watch themselves.
That's the way Taylor does it. A perfectly crafted coming of age story with the sledgehammer ending, just like in real life.
Taylor spent some time in Ghana, Africa, and his poems travel there and back. His experience broadening the scope of everything. One minute he's watching a Canadian boy on a Canadian street drag his hockey stick and the next we are in an African slave prison trying to catch our breath.
Taylor's scope, his canvas, is an inclusive panorama. He's a full palate painter.
She has her narratives, he has his,
and together they move through the world.
Their scripts are filled with the same set pieces, same characters,
yet they are blocked differently, recite different lines.
His parties end at 11:00, hers at 2:30.
they attend neighbouring churches, cheer for rival hockey teams.
She waters the lawn on Tuesdays, he mows it on Saturdays.
Their cars point in opposite directions each morning.
Their children attend different universities.
But we're only having one child, a girl,
he notes to her, drowsily.
She stares at the ceiling, smiles faintly.
It has taken so little for him to unmoor her.
Then our child will live on an island between us,
she concedes, rolling on her side.
And us? We will live an ocean apart?
He curls his arm around her, cocooning her in blankets.
He is long asleep before she can answer him,
but she whispers nonetheless, to the vaulted darkness,
We will beach ourselves upon her shore.
I have always believed that we are each in our own movie, I've never heard/seen it described quite so perfectly, just the right touch of elegant.
Taylor has an Art Garfunkel tirade that is more than worth the price of a spindly afro any day. Taylor has a wicked sense of humour and an almost perfect grasp of gravitas. He's plenty serious when he needs to be.
That One Semester
I thought about the 95 Theses
and how scared Martin Luther must have been
with his wooden mallet and the weight
of an empire pinned to his vestments.
I thought about Plessy v. Ferguson
and being separately equal and equally separate
and how Langston Huges taught me
that a black man can clean the pews of a white church
so long as he don't pray.
I thought about Robert Oppenheimer
and how he cried himself to sleep that night
when the sky glowed purple and soldiers
in bunkers two miles from the blast site
reported being able to see their own bones.
I thought about this whole God thing
and how maybe we've missed the point.
He isn't omnipresent or benevolent,
compassionate or clairvoyant,
he's simply there, all the time,
with a hammer and a broom
and frail human bones
flexing just under the skin.
Another thing that we here at Today's book of poetry really liked -- Rob Taylor confidently tackles the big issues -- God, love and morality. But he isn't preachy, he leaves us to draw our own conclusions.
Today's book of poetry can only conclude that this is finely tempered poetry, strength built from being held close to the flame.
(Photo by Marta Taylor)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob Taylor was born in Port Moody, British Columbia, and now resides in Vancouver with his wife, Marta. He has travelled widely, most recently to Ghana where he co-founded One Ghana, One Voice. Ghana's first online poetry magazine. His poems have appeared in over forty journals and anthologies, including Prairie Fire, Riddle Fence, The Antigonish Review, and Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry. An earlier version of The Other Side Of Ourselves won the 2010 Alfred G. Bailey Prize for best unpublished poetry manuscript.
“Rich with promise … anyone who can write a good poem – as Taylor does – about writing bad poetry, is a poet of talent.”
-George Elliot Clarke