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Understanding Fiction

Poems, 1986-1996

64 pages / 5.50 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations


  Paperback / 9780807121115 / September 1996

In his first poetry collection since winning the Pulitzer Prize for The Flying Change, Henry Taylor beautifully renders the vicissitudes of love, friendship, and vocation. Often using the craft of writing as a metaphor for the examined life, Taylor explores with wry wisdom the slow-dawning awareness of our evanescence. In Understanding Fiction, we find gentle regret for time spent dabbling, time spent away from the work that should rightfully claim our passion. Indeed, to understand the fictions with which we cloak our endeavors is ultimately to make what peace we can with the “consequences of ignorant choices.”

We find elegiac poems of occasion as well as deft translations of the poets Kyril Kadiski, Moshe Dor, Vasily Kazantsev, and Vladimir Sokolov. We witness instants of self-willed delusion and “charged vacancy,” a split second of mournful clarity in tossing a crumpled poem into a wastebasket. Throughout this towering collection, fundamental truths blaze forth from the most inconsequential of acts:

your fingers lift a cup beyond whose rim
a room bursts into clarity
and light falls on all things.

In Understanding Fiction, that light falls everywhere. 

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for The Flying Change, Henry Taylor has published seven previous poetry collections as well as the critical work Compulsory Figures: Essays on Recent American Poets. His other honors include the Michael Braude Award for Light Verse and the Witter Bynner Prize, both from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters; the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry; and membership in the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He lives in the Puget Sound area of Washington with his wife.

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