The El Cerrito City Council placed figurative laurels on an El Cerrito poet Tuesday night.
In a proclamation adopted unanimously, the five-member council recognized Tess Taylor for "her many accomplishments in the literary field." The measure also said the council "celebrates her contributions in the areas of Arts and Humanities both locally and nationally."
Taylor, who grew up in El Cerrito and moved back after 17 years away, received national recognition this past summer when she was selected to be the "NewsPoet" for August for NPR's news program, "All Things Considered." She spent a day in the newsroom seeing how the show is put together and composed a poem at day's end on the experience.
The poem she wrote that day and comments she gave to NPR about her experience can be found on the NPR website. Other poets chosen as the monthly NewsPoet have included Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith and former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.
Taylor, who teaches writing at UC Berkeley, thanked the council and read a poem she wrote about El Cerrito before she moved back to the city:
SONG FOR EL CERRITO
I used to hate its working-class bungalows, grid planning,
power-lines sawing hillsides. It shamed me
the way my parents did for not making more money.
Now it looks like a Diebenkorn.
Now I want even the bad wood siding
in our living room, my mother’s aging
books on modern Indian thought. Her tanpura
in sunlight. I want fox-weed in railroad trestles,
the endangered frogs in our gully.
I want a lemon tree.
On San Pablo, polyester collectibles, a folk-song store,
the “All-Button Emporium: Open 10-4 Saturday’s.”
How did love lodge in these?
It might be how marigold light
forgives even the traffic islands.
December only yellows the gingkoes and reddens the maples.
A stream smells rich under our house.
For Christmas, my sister and I steal
persimmons from neighbors’ yards.
Ten years on, I discover
how I keep falling in love here
among pickups and blackberry brambles.
Tonight it happened again:
We drove a bad car to the beach.
At dusk, a lone scrub pine—
clear, like a Japanese print. In the real sky, the moon
slid through clouds that were cinder-colored.
The poem, first published in 2010 when she lived in Brooklyn, is reprinted here with Taylor's permission. The poem will appear in The Forage House, due out next fall from Red Hen Press.
The council's proclamation is attached to this article.