"brilliantly creates 'a composite canvas' to capture what it means to make art in our precarious times..." —Craig Santos Perez
At once poem, essay, memoir fragment, and art object, The Book of Fools is a sweeping elegy for our earth—and our plastic-choked ocean—and it is visually, conceptually, and thematically unlike perhaps any book before it. A National Poetry Series finalist, The Book of Fools invents new formal structures to marry global, ecological themes of loss—focused around the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—to personal, confessional ones. Faced with the question of how to express the enormous ecological loss of our time, Sam Taylor joins this collective loss to a personal story of loss involving a mother’s early death to cancer, a story which culminates in a scene the speaker is compelled to revisit, relive, and revise. By utilizing innovative lyric techniques within the larger arc of an accessible narrative, the book endeavors to create a contemporary (anti-)epic for a crisis almost beyond the scale of imagination.
"The Book of Fools is a haunting journey into the (under)worlds of personal loss, global inequity, and ecological disaster. Just as the characters and mythic figures in this book cross borders, the poems traverse the aesthetic terrains of lyric and narrative, while also experimenting with typographical innovation. Taylor brilliantly creates a “composite canvas” to capture what it means to make art in our precarious times and to continue 'dancing of our erasure.'" —Craig Santos Perez, author of Unincorporated Territory
"With The Book of Fools, Sam Taylor has introduced a truly new and absolutely necessary disturbance into the field. All too often, memory and memoir serve as a baroque means of concealment; here, there is very purest disclosure...and by that I mean disclosure at the molecular level. In Taylor's ravishing text, the atoms of every image are seen to shiver and to shimmer. It is as though Taylor knows exactly what is at stake in the gamble of utterance. The Book of Fools is thrilling to witness and believe." —Donald Revell
"Sam Taylor's new book is a masterwork: a modern epic that drives toward our planetary grief with exhilarating invention and 'a plastic Byzantium' that invokes everything from the Pacific Plastic Gyre to Orpheus in a clam bar, from border crossings of ‘illegal’ people to Picasso, Matisse, Dylan, and Isadora Duncan. Yet, at its heart is one story, the story of the good son and the lost mother—or, is it the lost son and the good mother? The story is spun back so many times that with each rendering different figures seem to emerge as the book erases and revises itself before our eyes. This self-erasure has something to do with loss and something to do with healing and retrieval, but eventually we realize that the deeply personal story, shocking sometimes in its candor, is told less for its own sake than as a figure for our shared experience and as a study of reality, trauma, art, and myth. This is Taylor at the height of his game, and these poems, meaningfully bursting out of their own language, are a brilliant display of his powers." —David Keplinger, author of The World to Come
"Sam Taylor’s gorgeous new book lets the tensions of story and lyric unspool and weave, sink and surface, erase and reveal themselves. Taylor’s numerous formal strategies in THE BOOK OF FOOLS resists a single reading, and each reentry reveals more secrets inside the plasticity of both language and memory. Recursive, archetypal and heartbreaking, this book takes you through the subterranean realms of grief to rescue bright moments of intimacy and love among the shipwreck of familial history. Taylor writes: “prose is what we add to myth” but myth is also what he disentangles, investigates, and introduces us all to the many ways of knowing if we listen more deeply." —Traci Brimhall