Review by Sherre Vernon
Lisa C. Taylor is the author of two collections of short fiction, Impossibly Small Spaces (Arlen House, 2018) and Growing a New Tail (Arlen House, 2015), as well as five collections of poetry including Interrogation of Morning (Arlen House, 2022), and The Other Side of Longing (Arlen House, 2011) written collaboratively with Geraldine Mills.
Near the start of Interrogation of Morning, Taylor’s speaker implores, “Help me finish this poem” (“Poem as Dreamer Requests Help” 29), and it is this invitation that carries me through to the title poem, fifty pages later. When the speaker says, in “Interrogation of Morning” that “[i]n love, / the one who enters is the one who leaves, ” I can’t help but believe that she is talking about more than the body after a sexual encounter. That as much as this individual poem is a meditation on a new day, it is also grappling with mourning, and that ultimate leaving, where “the one entered is filled, carries the shape within, heart, tongue” (79). This duality of morning/mourning is held delicately throughout Taylor’s Interrogation, as she contemplates beautiful and painful encounters.
Put another way, I find the entirety of this book to be an exploration of “[l]ove’s geometry, distance / and relative position” (“Mathematics and Language,” 13). Over and over again, Taylor’s speaker sets herself in relationship to the creatures of the natural world and the characters of her life. Those she loves, has loved, are many and myriad: ants, hornets, birds, whales, strangers—the woman at the gym—made up people—”Aunt Vera”—and fathers and mothers and children and grandparents and God. In each of these relationships, Taylor “ingest[s], digest[s], [takes]in [as]matter and transform[s]it / to breathe and live” (“Counting Change When the World Ends,” 14). She tells us, “I breakfast on the rust of rocks, / whip of windwalker sage, make art from taupe and saffron” (“Astonishment,” 58), and I believe her.
That is the beauty of Taylor’s Interrogation of Morning. It is the kind of questioning that reaches into the very nature of substance existence, past matter into meaning—what exists between the poles of morning and mourning is her field of study—and with profound curiosity, finding “[e]verything afire, [including]the jewel-edged scab / on [her]knee, [and]pollen parachuting / over violets” (“Wild Thing,” 46). In watching the world through Taylor’s eyes, I find myself also pausing over still moments, wondering at the awe and awfulness of life and love and loss. When I set down this book “[n]o one has to convince me / that words matter. [She’s] rewritten / my life story over a dozen times, / each time / with fewer antagonists / and more heroes” (“Unseasonable,” 23).
Interrogation of Morning by Lisa C. Taylor
Arlen House, 2022, $19.95
Sherre Vernon (she/her/hers) is the award-winning author of Green Ink Wings (Elixir Press) and The Name is Perilous (Power of Poetry). Her debut full-length poetry collection, Flame Nebula, Bright Nova was released in 2022. Sherre has been published in journals such as Tahoma Literary Review and The Chestnut Review, nominated for Best of the Net, and anthologized in several collections including Fat & Queer and Best Small Fictions. Sherre teaches poetry at the Downtown Writers Center for the YMCA of Central New York. Read more of her work at http://www.sherrevernon.com