Saturday, November 17, 2012

Return to Reading

I used to think I wanted to be a librarian. It all started at the Perry Carnegie Library which had some daunting steps for a four year old in a smocked dress. A woman stood on the lean-to ladder pulling down a book. I want to work here, I told my mother, after I began to know the scope of a day in the alcoves of the library. Along with the numbered volumes, I loved the sunlight, wood, ceiling fans. It was a temple in our mundane little town.
I made it through many tests and tight places by the book. In the presence of a book, I was safe from awkwardness. If I’d had a better book on sex, that would have helped a lot. As it was, I married young and read the Russians when my babies took a nap.  I read the Beats. I read the war resisters and the early feminists. Eventually I had to get a job. To avoid the rigors of the cash register, I went back to school. I thought I would make a good librarian.
My grad school application essay spoke of search engines, venn diagrams, Boolean logic. I’d been warned: these days, for heaven’s sake, don’t expound upon your love of books; that’s démodé. Linked bibliographies, collection development by algorithm, self check out scanner, pro and con. People used to say: how fun to be a librarian with all those books. Books were deep background. Information was on the rise. 
So I became a librarian just in time to usher in a multitude of databases, a cyber age, techno savvy research, reading with an eye to cut and paste.  I made a living. I still liked the sunlight coming in the atrium and the cart of recent acquisitions. Eventually I had a nice big office.
Now I am a recovering librarian, recovering my lifetime love: novels, poems, histories and geographies good enough to read cover to cover more than once.  I have a great support group, my avidly irreverent, funny, and opinionated book club. I have wonderful book buddies. I can be completely random in my reading. And if I get too compulsive, or heavy on the you-have-to-read- this-book, my friends forgive me. I’m a recovering librarian and a reader born-again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Good News!

The Lady Victory
Poems by Jane Vincent Taylor
is available from Full Circle Books in Oklahoma City and at

The Poetry of Home
a week long workshop at Ghost Ranch
has spaces available. July 30- Aug 5, 2012. Register soon at

Summer Rituals

I can’t decide if this summer calls for a new routine, or no routine. Where are the new poems, I ask myself. I hope they are in this unadulterated notebook I’ve just unwrapped, dating the first page, performing my secret blank-book ritual. Routines and rituals, what would we do without them?

When I was a child we routinely went to Sunday Mass, ate fish on Friday, and gave up mostly chocolate bars for Lent. We churned ice cream on 4th of July, sprinkled the clothes with water before we ironed them, fried an August egg on the hot sidewalk, and during the stickiest nights of summer slept outside on cots under a net of fireflies.

Routine. It’s French : for route -- a path, a road to travel. Both ritual and routine offer ways to get from one place to another. A map or recipe, orderly and prescribed perhaps, but pointing to an unknown door. Rites have always moved toward a threshold.

One of my favorite childhood journeys was one where we kids, all dressed up, walked from the portico of St. Joseph’s school to the church, St. Rose of Lima, at the far end of the street. It was May, post-Easter-death-and-resurrection. This, a softer feast, we just called Crown the Queen. With blasts of Spirea in our arms we walked two by two. One child loaded down with boughs, the other in charge of a paper-collared candle. The tapers were lit the moment it got dark enough to make a sparkly show. We were flame and flower moving in song toward our goal: to place a wreath of roses on the painted blessed virgin and make her come alive. Actually, it was we who came a little more alive, even if the cloying churchy atmosphere could make a few girls faint away and have to be revivedwith cardboard fans and smelly handkerchiefs.

Perhaps you, too, were raised on lovely ceremonies. Some of ours brought comfort; some were full of contradiction, irrationality, and fear. But mostly they fed our need for beauty, amazement, and a dose of transformation. Looking back it seems that for routines to become true rituals they need to jolt one off the common path, offering, if only briefly, an awakening.

Last week, for instance, to break the monotony of Tinker Toys, I took my granddaughters (aged 3 and 6) for a walk around the neighborhood. It was ordinary: curb walking, rock collecting, bird watching, dog visiting at various fences. At each corner we decided which route looked the most promising, surprise-wise. Nearing home an oddly brindled cat came bounding out in front of us. A miniature tiger/panther mix, we decided. The girls were convinced it had escaped from the zoo. For about a block we were in the wilderness, a very small wilderness, but still. A walk had turned into something extraordinary.

I think it doesn’t really take that much. Sometimes we escape routine by walking further into it and letting imagination run wild a bit. I’m hopeful for new poems because summer, queen of rituals and not- that-much-routine, is almost here.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Today I’ve been thinking about work, my work, and also the tradition of work I come from. My father was a telephone man, a lineman; later he ran the switch room. These days one would say he worked in “communications,” as does my oldest son, and in fact, do I. Hey, as you read this, are we not watering the fields of communications, cyber-wise, blog-wise?

A few years ago I retired from a career in librarianship (which is very fine work, indeed) and am now a writer and teacher. I consider this my full time work though I admit to taking lots of long lunch breaks, yoga breaks, and weeks off to garden or paint the kitchen. If I had a union contract it would have to honor the time a writer needs in non-desk activity in order to find the hot wire, the live switch. But if I had a union contract now in the State of Oklahoma I’d be considered communist, a weakling, in cahoots with a leftist devil.

You see, now that my days have elasticity I sometimes find myself  reading the local paper. The current legislature is anti-labor and to make that clear is proposing changing the Oklahoma State motto from “Labor Omnia Vincit” established way back before statehood to “Oklahoma: In God We Trust”. In other words they want to dump the quote from Virgil’s poem Georgics (originally calling on more of the Roman people to take up farming) to a well-worn dollar-begging pious cliché. Shall I tell you what I think? I love Virgil. And though I don’t think we should fall for imperial propaganda and all move to the countryside, I like honoring people’s work.

My mother worked at home for years, sewing our clothes, upholstering chairs, refinishing furniture, canning (though she hated that) ironing, and doing many of the things a 1950’s wife did to very little fanfare. Later she worked as a waitress (I still love the sound of tip change in an apron pocket), and off and on as a seamstress. Once for a while she drew newspaper fashion ads for our local department store. She also trusted in God though she didn’t insist that everyone around her do so. I don't think she would have put it on a bumper sticker.

On a happier note, I also read in the news that the Oklahoma Book Award nominees have been announced. Congratulations to all you poets and writers. Your labor may not have conquered all but it has won the heart of a State that perhaps still knows the value of a seed well sown. I’m thankful for that. Keep up the good work, everyone, whatever it is.