Q&A with Tess Taylor


As March approaches, we asked a few Festival speakers to tell us a little bit more about their passions and their work. For the first in this series of Q&As, we invite you to get to know 2018 Festival speaker Tess Taylor, author of Work & Days, an on-air poetry reviewer for NPR’s All Things Considered

If you could make everyone in the world read one book, which would it be?

Probably The Complete Poems of Elizabeth Bishop, just because I think they are so good. This year, though, I am obsessed with Exit West by Moshin Hamid.

What is your favorite aspect of participating in book festivals?

I love getting fired up about new books, meeting wonderful authors, seeing friends! And I love that everyone is there to celebrate something I adore. I just feel so lucky to be there and take part.

Which other speakers are you excited to see or hoping to meet at the Festival?

I really think everyone should come out and see Tyehimba Jess. He’s a remarkable poet and a terrific reader.

Which part of your book are you most proud of?

My book—which traces a year I spent working on a small scale farm in the mountains of Western Massachusetts—has a simple shape. One year of being close to the land and watching. But I think there can be a lot of wonder in that, and I think this was a book that came out of a time of both having the privilege to watch and of learning my own attention. So I like the simplicity of the shape. Also, the cover, which is a huge heirloom tomato, is quite fetching and of course I can’t take responsibility for that!

What are you working on next?

My next book of poems is called Rift Zone, and it takes place in my hometown in California, which is, as the title implies, right over a faultline. There are so many faults and faultlines in our country right now that it seemed okay and even necessary to look closely at the ones in my back yard.

In the 2018 Virginia Festival of the Book, Tess Taylor will participate in Poetics of Food & Farming and Root & Tendril: A Poetry Reading, both on Friday, March 23.