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Poet Tess Taylor Tells Us What She's Reading This Summer

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Next, our poetry reviewer Tess Taylor has some treats to add to your summer reading list, and they are not all poetry. The first book is about reading any and everything.

TESS TAYLOR, BYLINE: I found myself diverted a bit this summer, and I ended up reading a book about reading. And it was so engrossing that I couldn't put it down, and I think that was actually the point. This is somebody who really just wants to encourage you to enjoy the time that you spend reading. And the book is called "Books Promiscuously Read: Reading As A Way Of Life" by Heather Cass White. This is just a book that tells you that your guilty pleasure is actually not guilty. It's formative to your inner life. It's formative to our ideas of individuality and freedom. She doesn't want us to be dutiful. She writes, (reading) it matters that students are bored by books that they are required to read even when those books began as scandals and guilty pleasures. It matters that we are frequently bored by books we require ourselves to read. It may be that the most important function of required reading is to stimulate our resistance to it in the form of reading that is haphazard, spontaneous, whimsical or contrarian.

I also had found myself drifting into this biography of Edgar Allan Poe, "The Reason For The Darkness Of The Night: Edgar Allan Poe And The Forging Of American Science." A lot of people know that Edgar Allan Poe grew up in Richmond, Va., but I hadn't quite placed him at the first year of UVA and at Thomas Jefferson's funeral. But there he is, inheriting the wonder cabinet and the whole kind of mess of race and power and privilege that's making up America. And then his arc leads him all kinds of places. He works a gazillion jobs, for heaven's sake. But he ends up in New York, really very close to P.T. Barnum. And so the other side of the spectrum is, like, the wonder cabinet to the cabinet of humbug. And this biography just captivated me. I just thought, gosh, I had not realized that this was one way of unpacking why Poe is so fascinating and so good.

I always want to recommend that people spend a bit of their summer reading poetry. I have been utterly captivated by Yusef Komunyakaa's "Everyday Mojo Songs Of Earth." Komunyakaa is one of our great masters. He's been turning out magnificent work for 20 years now. This is an amazing retrospective of it. And I wanted to just leave us with a good poem to send us out into the summer called "Our Side Of The Creek."

(Reading) When the boys dove into our swim hole, we pumped our balled fists to fire up their rebel yells. The Jim Crow birds sang of persimmon and may paw after a 12-gauge shotgun sounded in the mossy woods. If we ruled the day and hour, the boys would call girl cousins and sisters, and they came running half-naked in a white splash. But we could outrun the sunset through sage and rabbit tobacco, born to hide each other's alibis beneath the drowned sky.

KELLY: Poet Tess Taylor's books to top off your summer reading - "Everyday Mojo Songs Of Earth," "The Reason For The Darkness Of The Night" and "Books Promiscuously Read."

(SOUNDBITE OF HAROLD BUDD'S "RUE CASIMIR DELAVIGNE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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