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A Reading List For The Social Distancing Era, From Poet Tess Taylor


We've been asking writers of all kinds what they are reading right now. Our poetry critic Tess Taylor has a poem to read. She says she and her family are doing their best to keep busy and stay positive. But...

TESS TAYLOR, BYLINE: Every so often, something will happen and one of us will burst into tears. And we're very aware that we're all together and we're also very fragile. And what I think is really important right now is to remember that poems and literature can give us a chance to reroute ourselves. And in a moment when a lot of us have to take imaginary journeys, I wanted to read a poem that has a very convincing imaginary journey. So I'm going to read "The Lake Isle Of Innisfree" by William Butler Yeats.

(Reading) I will arise and go now and go to Innisfree, and a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made. Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee and live alone in the bee-loud glade. And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings. There midnight's all a glimmer and noon a purple glow, an evening full of the linnet's wings. I will arise and go now for always night and day. I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore. While I stand on the roadway or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart's core.

What I love about that poem is that we go with him. We imagine some bees and some linnets. We imagine the lapping. And then at the end, he says, I'm still standing on the pavement, and he reminds us that he hasn't actually gone anywhere. But he's just taken this beautiful imaginative journey, and he's made this beautiful sound in language. And he's calmed us down. He's calmed himself down, that partly the role of literature, to let us have some space to imagine, is really powerful.


CHANG: Tess Taylor - she has two books out this spring, "Rift Zone" and "Last West: Roadsongs For Dorothea Lange."

(SOUNDBITE OF MIKE VASS' "FROM REGIONS FAR APART") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.