Red Hen Press (2020)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles (1/2021)
“Rift Zone” by Tess Taylor, is a powerful, moving collection of poetry giving voice to the voiceless, and to those who express theirs in a whisper, a whimper, a growl, or a scream–whatever the utterance may be. These poems describe rifts in various forms–rifts in society, rifts in the earth, rifts among people and ideas, and the present and the past.
Taylor’s California hometown lies along a fault-line, so, the symbolism she uses represents an eclectic mix of events, from a Spanish land grant, to valley girls, to internment of the Japanese. Moving from past to present, her poems reflect more current issues, like housing, inequality, and deportation. Her poems are about an America cracking from so many faults, and finding love and hope, somehow, inside those cracks. These slice-of-life poems represent not just this poet, but the pain and yearning of almost everyone who has noticed.
In this volume of poetry, you’ll find a wide range of emotion, deep sensitivity, and strong reactions. In a way she speaks for those of us who speak out but are seldom heard, who don’t know what to say, or are crowded out by louder, more forceful voices. Even though the poems speak of California, the feelings are felt all around the country. Taylor verbalizes the thoughts and feelings we sometimes bury inside. She seems to get to the heart of an issue, in deep ways, and in abstract ways–both we can understand. The issues of today echoes that of the past, and whether she’s discussing climate change or motherhood or violence, you can hear truth and passion in her words.
As you read through the poems, you find yourself going on a tour of California with Taylor and get a real sense of place with her beautiful language. She paints with a wide brush, from the personal, to the historic, to the geologic, to the social, but adds details that move you closer to the heart of the meaning. For example, her imagery in the poem “SIXTH GRADE, 1988” is visceral but lyrical, and pulls at your emotions and tears; a sampling of just how lovely but targeted the art form of poetry can be. “SONG WITH WILD PLUM & THORN” and “I GAVE MY LOVE A STORY” are my personal favorites. “Rift Zone”, by Tess Taylor, is a collection of poems to enlighten, inform, and elevate the human soul and psyche.