Ulrich hosts poetry reading with Sam Taylor


Rachel Rudisill/ The Sunflower

Sam Taylor, author of Book of Fools, speaks about the meaning behind his poems on Oct. 19 inside the Ulrich Museum.

On Tuesday, October 19 the Ulrich Museum hosted a poetry reading by Sam Taylor. Taylor is the director of creative writing and the associate professor of poetry at Wichita State. On Tuesday Taylor spoke on his newest collection of poems, The Book of Fools.

“The Book of Fools has a similar meaning to Nude Descending an Empire (one of his previous books).” says Taylor.

The difference between Nude Descending an Empire and The Book of Fools is that Fools is more personable. We have all experienced or will experience, the death of a loved one. We hear the overcoming and darkness not only with the death of Taylor’s mother but a friend who shot himself and his father’s mental breakdown.

The Book of Fools was published on October 14, 2021. Taylor wrote these poems focusing on the death of his mother, who passed away when he was 22 years old and still carries on her legacy.

One of the first poems of the book is The Age of Positive Thinking. Within this poem, Taylor includes a painting by Pablo Picasso. This image was one of Picasso’s more depressing paintings. There is a dying woman in bed who is surrounded by loved ones. A man is holding her wrist because she is too weak to hold his hand back. Within this poem, he compares each of his family members to someone in the painting. The dying woman, his mother, and the man holding her hand, his grandfather.

In poetry, the author is given creative freedom to display the text however they see fit. Taylor uses this to his advantage as he represents the underworld. There are some poems in the book, such as Return, where you have to turn the book upside down to read. Return begins normally. The first column is long and continuous; however, once the reader reaches the second column, they must turn the book because the text is upside down. Taylor does this to show the difference between worlds and how the underworld is completely upside down and different from normal life on Earth.

Taylor also represents the coming out of the underworld by fading his text. In the beginning of multiple poems, the text is very bright and almost difficult to read; however, as you get closer to the end of the poem the text returns to the normal black color.

The light text not only represents the underworlds but hard moments in life. When you reach the poems about Taylor’s mental breakdown, and other hard life moments, the majority of the text is light. This is due to life moments being difficult to see and understand.

At the end of Taylor’s reading, a Q&A was offered. Many of his readers were intrigued by the footnotes included in the majority of his poems.

“The footnotes were really like looking outside the frame of a classical poem,” said Taylor. “(The footnotes) is the idea that there is always more outside of the frame. Really, it is about creating art.”

Taylor wanted the reader to know that there are multiple views that can be interpreted from each of his poems. Poems do not have one true meaning, but multiple. The meaning is just how the reader can understand.

Both The Book of Fools and Nude Descending an Empire are available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. To learn more about upcoming events, go to the Ulrich Museum’s website or upcoming events on the Wichita State University website.