Jo Barbara Taylor’s debut poetry collection, One or Two Feathers, contains imaginative, fresh writing that is full of color and soft sensuality. Nature is always at the center of these poems about personal love and loss, but not all of these poems are serious. When Taylor’s wit is on display, she delivers the unexpected as she connects with her reader and opens up her world of tantalizing images and music to them.
In “My First,” Taylor allows you to guess what she means.
bright lights barge into my eyes
and trespass the circuits of my brain
a cacophony of steady rhythm
besieges me, hip hop and disco
I eat ice cream,
drink soda and beer
my first NBA game is not
“October, 1970” describes Taylor and her former husband beginning their married lives together. Nature soon becomes a metaphor for their marriage.
Armored with optimism, we saluted
bars, birds, and leaves,
then moved into a town
geared to temporary duty.
Three years measured that branch
of our lives. Later the future split
like blasted limestone, our turrets
spun to separate ventures.
“Sipping Chardonnay” is the most personal of her collection as it reveals the death of a long-term relationship during a wine tasting vacation. Taylor’s controls her images and color so that they seethe with emotion, but never veer into sentimentality.
It was on that day of tasting wine
in Napa Valley, grapes growing green
on a hillside of bisque soil.
I held my stem, looked through the glass,
gold with sun and Chardonnay,
remembering the Mosel and the Rhine
where we toasted vineyards
on riverbanks, tender passion,
knights in shining armor.
A thundercloud panzered
across the alice blue sky. It fired,
I never loved you, never
I’m getting out. Moving on. It’s time.
I was content to sit a moment
sipping Chardonnay, to breathe
earth pouring into vines. The cloud stained
my wine red, I lost my grip and the glass
toppled, spilling blood.
Jo Barbara Taylor’s poems are personal, yet they are so universal because of the sharp images she brings to life through color, honest emotions, and the music in her lines. You may think you’re reading a “nice” poem, but then she flips on the tension and you end up in a different place from where you began. I look forward to reading Jo Barbara Taylor’s most recent chapbook, Cameo Roles (Big Table Publishing, 2011).
Jo grew up in Indiana and now lives in Raleigh, NC. Her new book of poetry is Cameo Roles (Big Table Publishing, 2011). Her poems have appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Mount Olive Review, Bay Leaves, Ibbetson Street, Exit 109 and You Gotta Love ‘Em Anthologies, Bee Culture, on New Verse News and in the Broad River Review. She is active in the North Carolina Poetry Society.