Keith Taylor

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A sixth grade boy’s world was turned upside down when he moved from western Canada to the United States. His voice was strange, his spelling was different and his classmates never failed to cruelly remind him of it. After being kicked out of school for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance with the rest of the class, he became bitter. His bitterness turned to words and his words turned to poetry.

Before he began writing, he read. Now 62, long finished with sixth grade, he still does. When asked what he reads, he responded: “What do I read? Sophie I read everything. Lots of fiction, lots of poetry, lots of history, lots of nature, natural history stuff, lots of science. I read everything.” Among these things, his favorite to read is usually poetry. “I can’t read poetry at night because I get too excited. I get all jacked up and I can’t sleep,” said Taylor. Taylor often jokes with his wife, Christine, that poetry is his first love. But as he says, “She’d be a close second!”

When he isn’t reading it, he’s writing it. Taylor explains how his writing focus shifts, “If there’s a poem underway, that’s going to be my favorite thing to write about.” A favorite topic of his is birds. “They can fly, they can sing, they get me out so I can walk around to see them,” Taylor said. He himself wishes he could fly and sing like the birds.

Taylor not only writes about various things, but he also writes in various places. “You know, it’s weird because I always had to work, so I always had to make writing happen around working for a living. I learned to sort of write anywhere, and I do,” Taylor said. “[I write in] a beautiful study upstairs filled with poetry books, I write on that kitchen table out there, I write in coffee shops downtown Ann Arbor, I have an office at the University (of Michigan), I used to write in my car a lot while I was driving, probably not a good idea, but I did! And it wasn’t speaking into a tape recorder, I would write on pieces of paper while I was driving,” Taylor said. Taylor doesn’t look for anything specific in these places, what he looks for is the motivation to write. “The place is often an inspiration, if I want to write about that place. I’m adaptable.”

Along with writing, Taylor also performs musical arts. “I was just part of a dance performance in Muskegon. I wasn’t dancing, don’t worry! But I did read poetry,” Taylor said. He also once read a poem with an orchestra in Carnegie Hall. There he decided he wanted to go on stage thirty seconds early and look out at the audience to take it all in before reading his poem. “I was looking out and I was thinking ‘wow, my knees aren’t shaking, my hands aren’t shaking, my voice is not going to quiver. I can do this.’”

When asked how he wants people to perceive him, Taylor says he hopes that he is not perceived as some “Fat-ass, irrelevant, old, white guy,” Taylor said. “I hope that people, either something I’ve done or something I’ve written or my teaching, somebody values that.”

Keith Taylor, once a bitter sixth grade boy, is now an extremely accomplished literary figure in Ann Arbor, who is certainly not pretentious nor irrelevant.

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