While first apprehensive about attending the Delcamp Visiting Writers Series and Larkspur Press literary reading, my muse came to me when I heard Mary Ann Taylor-Hall speak. A woman of great diction with a peaceful tone to her soothing voice. She spoke about the founder of Larkspur Press in a way that could fully enchant you. Hall whisked the audience away with the readings of her poetry dedicated to nature. I knew the moment she spoke that I wanted to find out more.
Born in Chicago and attending Columbia University, Taylor-Hall has a natural talent for writing. She continued her career by teaching in colleges throughout the country, and even outside of it at the University of Puerto Rico. When speaking with Taylor-Hall, I asked how she created a voice that was so uniquely her own. She began to tell me a little about her life in nature. It stems from the fact that she lives on a farm, which gives her proximity to more nature. Seeing it as gaining a psychic experience, Taylor-Hall told me that she liked to walk through the woods and admire the nature. Her poetry was very telling of this hobby with beautiful descriptions of people being one with nature. Her first reading- the one about Larkspur press- began with a creek. She found a way to get the audience to imagine a creek and what was to follow.
With many pieces under her belt, Taylor-Hall chose to read some pieces from her writing, “Dividing Ridge.” Curious about her choice of readings, I asked why she chose the pieces she read. Taylor-Hall was very straightforward in her answer to why and very clear that it was simply out of courtesy to the other authors. She said she wanted to be considerate of time yet also pick pieces that had a cohesive theme. Her theme of the night was mortality, which was palpable within her one-with-nature pieces of literature. Her pieces—and the way she read them—allowed for a deep connection of the audience to the nature that surrounds us every day.
Taylor-Hall was there in order to not only celebrate her pieces of work but also to celebrate Larkspur Press. I asked her how she felt about getting recognized. Taylor-Hall was quick to say that she feels she is not as recognizable as Wendell Berry—to which she pointed the long line of people waiting to get him to sign their books—but talking to students gives her joy. She spoke to the idea that getting recognized brought her confidence and a feeling that people were paying attention. I then asked her how she first got connected with Gray Zeitz, the man that runs the work at Larkspur Press. Taylor-Hall became “aware of the literary community in Kentucky,” in the late 70s to early 80s. She found a community that lead her to Larkspur Press. She added in a comedic story about a friend of hers that also had a piece published at Larkspur Press. Taylor-Hall told me that during a flood, her friend’s piece “went down the river.” She attributed her poetry writing to the fact that “poetry was easier.” By being a part of literary groups in Kentucky, Taylor-Hall said she could be given three words and easily write a poem.
With lots of admiration for Taylor-Hall, I walked out of this reading with better knowledge about Kentucky writers that have made beautiful pieces of work and thankfully chose to share them with Transy students on a casual Wednesday evening.