Across Your Careful Garden | Judith Taylor
Judith Taylor was born and brought up in Perthshire, Scotland. She studied English and Mediaeval History at St Andrews University and spent the early part of her career as a librarian. She now lives in Aberdeen, where she works in IT and is one of the organisers of the monthly ‘Poetry at Books and Beans’ events. Her poetry has been published widely in magazine and anthologies, and her first collection, Not in Nightingale Country, was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2017. She is one of the Editors of Poetry Scotland magazine.
This is a different collection to the one the poet expected to follow Not in Nightingale Country with: hands up everybody whose 2020 did go according to plan. The poems in it were written across a period of uncertainty and upheaval, both private and public, when the world came to seem both small and very wide; isolating, and deeply (sometimes frighteningly) interconnected. The garden of the title has been a source of continuity in all this turbulence.
Though it too is a place of constant change, and resistant to all the best-laid plans, it helped to germinate many of these poems.
‘Judith Taylor is a poet with antennae finely tuned to the world in which we live and what we have made of it. Her poems are deeply serious but never stuffy as she turns her clear, unwavering gaze on the realities of life in the Anthropocene. She leavens her themes with a wry, sometimes caustic, wit and an eye for quirks (the Notes to this collection are a delight).
One of the great pleasures of Across Your Careful Garden is her alert attention not only to details as exact as “dark cerise little knots of bud” on a cherry tree, “the sting of windblown sand”, the pattern of sounds during a performance of John Cage’s “4:33” (minutes of silence), but to the resources of language itself. She is keenly aware of undertones and echoes, building an entire poem around the etymology of photograph, pursuing the misunderstood derivation of cor anglais into the arrogant assumptions of empire. She has a delicate ear too for the music of words and (pace Mrs M, her childhood piano teacher) it is no accident that several of the poems centre on musical instruments and performances.
The over-arching theme is one of loss—of loved people, of vanished homes, above all of our vanishing natural habitat. Judith Taylor moves between “the caves [of memory] where our belongings are stored away” and “the thin list/of those who might survive us” with an enviable agility and lightness of touch. For all its refusal to look away from uncomfortable truths Across Your Careful Garden sings with a joyous response to life.’
—A. C. Clarke
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