Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stanly County native Eleanor Ross Taylor wins $100,000 poetry prize

Eleanor Ross Taylor, 90, has won the American Poetry Foundation's $100,000 Ruth Lilly award for her lifetime accomplishments. Given to a living U.S. poet, it's one of the nation's largest literary prizes.

Born in 1920, Taylor grew up in Stanly County, graduated from Norwood High in 1936 and from UNC-Greensboro in 1940. She lives in Charlottesville, Va., where her late husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Peter Taylor, taught fiction at the University of Virginia.

Until her collection "Captive Voices" was published last year by Louisiana State University Press, nearly all Taylor's work was out of print. In a press release, Poetry magazine editor Christian Wiman noted that Taylor's name may be unfamiliar to many readers, but praised her work for its "sober and clear-eyed serenity."

Here's a poem from her latest collection:

Disappearing Act

No, the soul doesn't leave the body.

My body is leaving my soul.

Tired of turning fried chicken and

coffee to muscle and excrement,

tired of secreting tears, wiping them,

tired of opening eyes on another day,

tired especially of that fleshy heart,

pumping, pumping. More,

that brain spinning nightmares.

Body prepares:

disconnect, unplug, erase.

But here, I think, a smallish altercation


Soul seems to shake its fist.

Wants brain? Claims dreams and nightmares?

Maintains a codicil bequeathes it shares?

There'll be a fight. A deadly struggle.

We know, of course, who'll win ….

But who's this, watching?

From "Captive Voices: New and Selected Voices 1960-2008" (Louisiana State University Press; $21.95).


Anonymous said...

It is quite an honor to win this prize, especially at the age of ninety.

I'll have to say, though, that the poem printed here as an example of the work doesn't exactly generate a feeling of "clear-eyed serenity" for me.