- Amherst ReadsAmherst Reads
- Featured Book of the Month
- Past Features
- June 2015: John William Ward: An American Idealist By Kim Townsend
- May 2015: The Gentleman Bat by Abraham Schroeder '01
- April 2015: Hungry for France by Alexander Lobrano '77
- March 2015: The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber '93
- February 2015: The Cottoncrest Curse by Michael Rubin '72
- January 2015: Race Horse Men by Katherine Mooney '04
- December 2014: Gruesome Spectacles by Austin Sarat
- November 2014: All I Love and Know by Judith Frank
- October 2014: Catching Lightning in a Bottle: How Merrill Lynch Revolutionized the Financial World by Winthrop H. Smith, Jr. '71
- September 2014: When Paris Went Dark: : The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944 by Ron Rosbottom
- August 2014: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian '82
- July 2014: The Economy of You by Kimberly Palmer '01
- June 2014: Collecting Shakespeare:The Story of Henry and Emily Folger
- May 2014: The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil
- April 2014: Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor '91
- March 2014: Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece
- February 2014: Forged: Why Fakes are the Great Art of Our Age
- January 2014: Full Upright and Locked Position by Mark Gerchick '73, P'13
- December 2013: This Indian Country by Fred Hoxie '69
- November 2013: The Partner Track by Helen Wan '95
- October 2013: The Forage House by Tess Taylor '99
- September 2013: Inferno by Dan Brown '86
- August 2013: Six Years by Harlan Coben '84, P'16
- July 2013: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein '88
- June 2013 - Brothers Emanuel by Ezekiel Emanuel '79
- May 2013 - Cadaver by Jonah Ansell '03
- April 2013 - Masters of Disaster by Chris Lehane '90
- March 2013 - Schroder by Amity Gaige
- February 2013: El Iluminado by Ilan Stavans
- January 2013: Everything Under the Sun by David Suzuki '58
- December 2012: Arcadia by Lauren Groff
- November 2012: The Hidden Europe by Francis Tapon '92
- October 2012: The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz '64
- September 2012: Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum '99
- August 2012: Hitlerland by Andrew Nagorski '69
- July 2012: Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach '93
- June 2012: Vineyard at the End of the World by Ian Mount '92
- May 2012: God's Jury by Cullen Murphy '74
- April 2012: Big Birthday by Kate Hosford '88
- March 2012: EyeMinded by Kellie Jones '81
- February 2012: 1493 by Charles Mann '76
- December 2011: The Vices by Lawrence Douglas
- November 2011: Don't Cross Your Eyes by Aaron Carroll '94
- October 2011: Come On All You Ghosts by Matthew Zapruder '89
- September 2011: The Pale King by David Foster Wallace '85
- August 2011: Scoundrels in Law by Cait Murphy '83
- July 2011: Terror and Wonder by Blair Kamin '79
- June 2011: What Should I Do? by Professor Alex George
- May 2011: Model Nazi by Professor Catherine Epstein
- April 2011: A Thread of Sky by Deanna Fei '99
- March 2011: Unlikely Allies by Joel Paul '77
- February 2011: Secret Historian by Justin Spring '84
- December 2010: The Best of Foxtrot by Bill Amend '84
- November 2010: Higher Education? by Andrew Hacker '51
- October 2010: Routes of Man by Ted Conover '80
- September 2010: The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick '75
- August 2010: Innocent by Scott Turow '70
- July 2010: Simple Fresh Southern by Matt and Ted Lee '93
- June 2010: Ballet's Magic Kingdom by Professor Stanely Rabinowitz
- May 2010: Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman '68
- April 2010: Andean Express by Adrian Althoff '04
- March 2010: Freefall by Joseph Stiglitz '64
- February 2010: Beautiful Creatures by Margaret Stohl '89
- December 2009: What to Read When by Pam Allyn '84
- November 2009: On Poets and Poetry by William H. Pritchard '53
- October 2009: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell '95
- September 2009: Rules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey
- August 2009: The End of Overeating by David Kessler '73
- July 2009: The Mirror Effect by Dr. Drew Pinsky '80
- June 2009: Art and Politics of Science by Harold Varmus '61
- May 2009: Hold Tight by Harlan Coben '84
- April 2009: Passing Strange by Marni Sandweiss
- March 2009: Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian '82
- February 2009: Loneliness as a Way of Life by Tom Dumm
- January 2009: Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein '88
- December 2008: The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff '01
- November 2008: The Most Famous Man in America by Debby Applegate '89
- October 2008: The Thing Itself by Dick Todd '62
- September 2008: Are We Rome by Cullen Murphy '74
- Search the Catalog
About the Author: Tess Taylor '99
El Cerrito, CA
Place of Birth:
Berkeley High '95
NYU journalism '03
BU MFA '06
Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
My grandfather went to Amherst, and used to sing the son of the son of a DKE song. As a kid from California, I found humid smell and greenery of a cute New England town exotic. And in the middle of a rainstorm the sun came out on my college tour. I also found the way professors in the English department talked about writing was deeply inspiring.
Favorite (most memorable or most influential) class at Amherst:
Actually, a class by Chick Chickering and Michele Barale called The Grammar of English changed the way I read--and write.
Favorite (most memorable or most influential) professor:
Andy Parker, and also Lawrence Douglas
Poetry, poetics, writing race, writing the environment, the overlap between journalistic and poetic modes of writing.
Awards and Prizes:
Pushcart, 2013, for an essay "The Waste Land App" in The Threepenny Review.
Amy Clampitt Resident, Lenox, MA, 2010-2011
Mac Dowell Colony Fellow, Peterborough, NH, 2009
Bread Loaf Writer's Workshop, Scholar, Middlebury College, VT, 2007
Artist in Residence, Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA, 2007 + Affiliate Artist, 2012
William Randolph Hearst Fellow, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA, 2006
First Union Fellow, Robert H. Smith Center for Jefferson Studies, Charlottesville, VA, 2006
Copeland Fellow, Amherst College, Amherst, MA, 2005
Morton Marr Poetry Prize, Southwest Review, 2004
I. F. Stone Award, Overseas Press Club, granted for international reporting, 2004
New York Chapbook Fellow, Poetry Society of America, NY, NY, 2003
There are so many. I am always happy rereading To The Lighthouse. Or Elizabeth Bishop's Collected Poems. Or Eudora Welty's Delta Wedding.
That's like asking me my favorite friend, or favorite parent, or favorite child. I am in thrall of lots of people. Bishop, Lowell, Woolf, Dalloway, James Agee, Tolstoy, Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney, Zymborska, Milosz, Rushdie, Eula Biss...The list goes on!
Tips for aspiring writers:
Read lots. Write lots. Memorize a lot of poems. Study the things you most admire. Ask what's absent from the conversation and how you could contribute.
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author:
I've always been a voracious reader, and even as early as high school I knew I wanted to write. I just didn't really have a sense of what, or how. It occurred to me early on that I wasn't interested in fiction-- not in writing it, at least. I didn't want to keep whole characters in my head or figure out what they would do each day or eat for breakfast. Cereal, maybe? Oddly, I did like the way that writing about what I observed in the world somehow made it possible to interpret, the way that taking time to observe something, even small, sometimes provoked new revelation. I liked the frame of "Stopping by the Woods on A Snowy Evening" where nothing or almost nothing happens very beautifully and somehow manages to mean a great deal.
I also liked a sense of music in language, a sense of percussion. I had also been trained as a singer, and I thought I was going to go to conservatory, but had chosen not to at the last minute. I haven't really gone on in music seriously (though I sing some harmonies in a bluegrass band now), but the sense of being part of a lot of music, and memorizing songs, has stayed with me.
And so, when I was at Amherst, sophomore year, I wandered into an audition for Glyn Maxwell's play. Something about a Valentine-- I can't remember now: A happy valentine? A lost valentine? It doesn't matter. It was in meter, and Glyn was the new visiting poet. He cast me and I had a blast, and I decided to take his class.
And it was a little like uncorking something, a sort of series of revelations. I felt very much as if I had found a resonant zone. That class showed me some things about the space of the poem and what it could achieve, about rhyme and meter, about using white space, about the crossovers between poem and song. We memorized a lot. I became engrossed. And suddenly I felt quite serious about poetry.
Graduating with no particular way to support that seriousness was another matter. I graduated in the years just before the dot com bust; Somehow I found work rather quickly waitressing in a former funeral parlor turned Italian restaurant at the edge of a gentrifying section of Brooklyn. I opened a lot of bottles of wine and then supplemented this by writing little squibs for websites; then eventually for magazines, until I built up a kind of freelance lifestyle. I worked a short stint in the wrong corner of a publishing house (accounting, which I found rather dull); then wrote more; then eventually went to journalism school. But I kept working on the poems that had been my senior thesis and thinking about them in as much unbroken time as I had. Since I was very poor, I had perhaps more unbroken time than I otherwise might have as a young person in New York-- rather than go out to dinner, I wrote, and so on.
In 2003 I sent out my first collection poems to a new contest being sponsored by the Poetry Society of America; I was so lucky that the Irish poet Eavan Boland took a collection called THE MISREMEMBERED WORLD and it was published as a really elegant little chapbook. That changed my life; though not immediately. It took a long time after that to get the funding and time to write more poems, though I was lucky and would get grants. I kept writing jourrnalism and started teaching to pay the bills. During stretches I would have so many kinds of job to keep afloat that things would slow down.
I suppose the main thing for someone wanting to set out on this path is just to keep on it; to keep reading and writing, sending out work when you think it's ready, applying for things when you think you have something to say, look for momentum and luck where it comes. And to think about what you feel needs saying, and then to try to say it.