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Keith Taylor’s poem “The Weaver” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 2, out now.
How long have you been writing?
Let’s see. I am 59 years old now. I wrote my first poem the first winter I moved to the United States. I was 12. That means I’ve been writing for 47 years! I published my first poem in an obscure but legitimate literary journal when I was 18. That means I’ve been publishing for 41 years! Wow! Where did a lifetime go?
What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I moved to Indiana just before high school. I had a miserable seven years there, and left for a Europe on a one way ticket just after my 19th birthday. After wonderful, penniless years in France, I returned to the Midwest. To Michigan. And have lived here for the last 36 years. I have discovered the northern Midwest as an adult, but it has been the focus of my education.
How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
Much of what I write about most is the landscape, history and personalities found in this part of our planet. The Midwest is all over most of what I do, including the poem in Midwestern Gothic.
If I have any reputation at all as a writer (and what could that mean in this day and age?!), it is probably as a nature writer from the upper Midwest. I am happy with that. So I could say, the Midwest has shaped my themes and my concerns.
The great Charles Baxter has written about certain self-deprecating attitudes that predominate in Midwestern writing. That coupled with the well-known Canadian diffidence–yeah, I hear that in myself far too often. I wish it wasn’t there, and that I were more aggressive about pushing myself on the world. Or am I doing that now? Yipee!
Why do you believe there has never really been a regionalist push for Midwestern writing in the past like there has with the South or even the West Coast?
The answer to that is probably above.
It is worth reminding folks though that of the twelve Americans who have won the Nobel Prize, only one (Faulkner) was from the South, only one from California (Steinbeck), only one from New York City (Eugene O’Neill) and FIVE from the Midwest (Sinclair Lewis, Minnesota; Ernest Hemingway, Illinois and northern Michigan; Saul Bellow, Chicago; Toni Morrison, northern Ohio; and–if we can still count him, T.S. Eliot, from St. Louis). I think that means something.
How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
Sure, I do, without getting overwhelmed by it. Right now I have a web site and I do promotions among my 800 friends on Facebook (My wife and daughter call me a “Friend whore.”). It’s a weird time for publishing and for getting new literary work out in the world. We have to make an effort, even if we can’t let that effort shape us.
Oh, so many. Books I have read more times than others–Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold; The Nick Adams Stories, Ernest Hemingway; Spring and All, W.C.Williams; The Branch Will Not Break, James Wright; The Stone Angel, Margaret Laurence; Un Coeur Simple, Gustave Flaubert, etc.
My mother has been dead for 30 years. She had a way of preparing pork tenderloin that no one has ever been able to replicate. I would sacrifice a digit to have my mother’s pork tenderloin again.
If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
I would be tongue tied around so many of them. I mean, it was probably a gas to drink with Shakespeare, but if we went back knowing what we know now, I mean, who could actually TALK to him? I would have loved to be in the presence of Tolstoy, or Whitman. I actually did have drinks with Allen Ginsberg a couple of times. I wish I had had the guts to approach James Wright while he was alive. That would have been fun.
Where can we find more information about you?
Lots more information (including a bunch of links) than anyone would really need at my website: www.keithtaylorannarbor.com