La Loba Speaks for Wolf - the book
Back in the eighties, when Clarissa Pinkola Estés published her seminal book, Women Who Run With The Wolves, young women like myself felt the call. We had been through two decades of Women’s Liberation, a largely political movement, but something deeper and more spiritual was needed. We looked for it in ancient Goddess traditions and the notion of the divine feminine.
We also rediscovered folk tales with women as central characters, wild women who spoke to our experience. Pinkola Estés used indigenous folk tales to reawaken our archetypal and instinctual power. La Loba is a Mexican wolf woman and a collector of bones who resurrects the wild spirit from the Underworld. She preserves especially that which is in danger of being lost to the world. La Loba decides to join with the wolves and sings over their bones to bring them back to life. This tale in particular spoke to our buried feral selves and we discovered our howl.
As I read Susan Taylor’s collection, La Loba Speaks for Wolf, I realised that tuning into my body response was key; it rattled my ribcage and stirred my heart and limbs. In Wolf Watch, she writes:
It knows our type,
remembers what we once were:
at one with the wood…
now one of many to take it for granted.
Taylor has spent years getting into their skin and the wolf’s perception of being at one with their surroundings... She uses a variety of forms and shape poems to express her visions. Illustrations are dotted through the collection, including a wolf-faced lunar calendar. La Loba is guardian of the wildwood, its shamanka and chantress. The more La Loba follows the wolf’s call, the more she becomes wolf, experiencing a joyful agility and sensuality:
her skin is a buff sheen and it tingles
like sand at its tipping point off a ledge.
Insects begin to hum and tik tik, as they cling
in tassels of leaves, brushing her with kisses.
The poet has not lost her ability to call in magical power to enrich her work and, hopefully, keep our precious wild spirit alive... she urges us, from a deep and ancient place, to cast off the veil of the dead and re-find the joy of being alive in kinship with all living beings.
Susan Taylor is an accomplished poet (she has produced around ten books, many of these with South West publishers) who combines written scripts with ‘spoken word’ performances.
There’s a concern with ecology here which is something central to Taylor’s poetry, and is in tune with a lot of current thinking about environmental issues and rewilding.
The regular rhythms may feel deceptively simple but they have a spell-like influence which carries throughout the collection. There are a variety of formal devices and there’s also a mix of information and intoxicating repetition which I imagine comes across even more strongly ‘in performance.’
The Song Beneath the Song
Come hear the song La Loba sings –
A song she sings, so mountains ring
And as they ring, they rearrange
The rising wind that drives all change.
It was her voice out on the air
That caused a wolf to leap at her,
Though not to harm a hair of her,
But just to be in care of her.
The wolf returns to mountainside,
He and La Loba, side by side.
Protective charms in Loba’s arms
Transcend the harm beneath the harms.
There may be something predictable and comforting about these verses but they are also skilful, challenging and imaginative.
La Loba Speaks for Wolf - the show
An inspiring performance. I went home with woodsmoke in my hair and wildness in my heart.
Susan Taylor has the crackle, the swing, the wayward word charisma that calls ancient energies into the room."
Dr. Martin Shaw
Susan's spoken word show, La Loba - Enchanting the Wild, was originally inspired by the plight of Mexican wolves, and performed as a two woman show. It has since evolved into a passionate one woman performance preparing to unleash its wild and wonder on the world as soon as life allows, accompanied by shadow puppet wolves!
Seen regularly performing at every open mic in the area, whenever she has the chance, the stage is one of Susan's favourite places. She revels in the camaraderie and co-creation between audience and performer and commands all our ears from the moment she begins to speak, especially when she's wearing her wolf ears.
Susan never seems to be entirely alone, with or without her partner in poetry, Simon Williams, at her side. There is a feral wild side to both the person and the poetry, infused with the power and magic of nature, and the beauty and wisdom...of wolf! Gather by the fire, friends, and prepare to...Howl.
on Temporal Bones...
"This book is not merely a retelling of the age-old records of our past, but an imaginative re-making, as all poetry should be. It is spilt into two parts: the first part is called Paradigm in Paradise, and the poetry truly is paradigmatic. It ranges from pre-history, through Graeco-Roman, Biblical and Early English myth, myths in the old meaning of a true history, an allegory. Often based on Nature, the poetry almost floats off the page, showing its many guises from the striking to the darker side, with nods to Blake and Dante. The second part tells the story of the Skeleton Woman, an Inuit tale on which Taylor has put not only flesh and blood, but also feeling and emotion. It is a love story told with both passion and tenderness."
"In Temporal Bones, Susan Taylor brings us versions of myths and legends, familiar and unfamiliar, from the Garden of Eden to Ancient Greece, from volcanic Iceland to green Arthurian woods and meadows, from Dartmoor to Mesopotamia. In particular, the extended sequence, based on the Inuit story of Skeleton Woman, shows the power of such tales to encapsulate whole cultures, to illuminate whole secret histories of women and men. These richly descriptive and penetrating poems remind us of the inexhaustible resonance of myth: the story that never was, and always is."
from Acumen 82...
Since taking out a subscription four years ago, I have been both amazed and delighted at most of the poems in the Acumen Literary Journal. However, it is only now, after reading Skeleton Woman taps her foot at the bottom of the Artic Ocean and Skeleton Key written by Susan Taylor, that I feel I must praise, if not rave about, ‘great poetry’, for this is what these poems are…
Stories and tales of the sea in their long association with mythology, mystery and magic, very often cast their wide spell-bound nets over so much that appeals to our sense of imagination and though, in one sense, everything is ‘make-believe’, sometimes the sheer poetry of tales like these ‘make us believe’…
In Skeleton Key is something to be treasured:
… I promise you stars
always ready in their due turns,
their orders are simple,
to shift and to shimmer
as they polish the limitless
windows of night.
They raise their own
from foundations of wonder,
clothing themselves in smoke and frost,
fusing the elements
to furl in the rhythm that sings all bodies
together: making the heart their drum,
making breath, making flesh,
If that’s not ‘great poetry’, I’ll eat my hat."
on A Small Wave for Your Form
These are beautiful and assured poems, drawn from the core of life, from love and birth. Here the poet weaves together the roles of mother and daughter, observer and participant. Landscape, memory and the abiding presence of spiritual reality within experience give this collection a tenderly profound and authentic resonance.
Susan Taylor’s poetry has a grace and understanding of a life that shines through the land, the comfort and shelter of cows, the ring of her father’s hands, milking. Her women are as naked as a ewe that drops her fleece at the clack of shears or a willow in sunlight. Here are her mother, grandmother, father, husband, sons – circled in love. Prepare to be enchanted.
A Small Wave for Your Form is the title of Susan Taylor’s new collection from Oversteps Books. This arresting phrase is the first line of St Brighid’s blessing for the newly born and is an apt name for a book that contains many new-borns – babies, calves, lambs, cygnets, to name but a few. She weaves her spells to open the reader’s heart, mind, eyes. She render what she readers what she calls The Commonplace remarkable, conjuring feelings from the landscape, from the moon, from everyday tasks.
In every poem she demonstrates how using simple diction plumbs deep human feeling. By deftly balancing a precarious line between spoken word and prosiness, the writing feels limpid as in this poem called Tributary to Dart:
When she looks over the side,
the water, as predicted,
assumes her face.
Apart from the precision of the image, the surprise of as predicted lifts it way out of the poetic.
The collection is technically diverse – not formal but formed – with every word and line meticulously honed. Taylor’s writing contains a rich personal or familial history and the whole collection resonates with this sense of intimacy and closeness. This, for me, is poetry clear as water in a pool and when she reads her work, I really do feel enchanted as if she were breathing the bones into me.
on The Suspension of the Moon
What might one look for from somebody brought up close to the land? A down to earth directness? A foundedness in the simplicity from which the 10,000 things flower? So that seems to be where Susan Taylor’s poems are coming from. They come, though, very much via herself – and they come from a deal of genuine invention.’
on The Complete Bearded Stranger
It offers a whole space of: delicate patterns, and connections and glimpses, very present and alive, full of watchful pleasure.
Susan Taylor’s collection has the ring of talent about it. Born into the countryside and living now in rural Devon, her poetry is a shrewd study of rural life and the lyrical qualities that the land holds for those who rebel against the corruption of the town spirit. In an age in which new poets seek to be nattily clever, this book, with its avoidance of slick artistry, is a refreshing and promising volume.
These poems are written by a poet of considerable talent, and possessing a fine intellect; there is a requirement on the part of the reader to take each piece slowly like a good wine, nothing has to be skipped over to arrive at the right conclusion in respect of these carefully crafted and admirable poems.
on Lincoln Green
Here are fresh, vibrant and evocative poems, made with a rare skill and achieving a lyrical beauty of the highest order. Susan Taylor is not the new Clare, Wordsworth, or the new anybody. Her poetry is unique and her own personification. In my opinion, only an outstanding talent could survive the rockroad of pastoral poetry today, and this volume evidences that Susan Taylor’s talent is outstanding. She brings to her work a delicacy and skill that is as natural as the lifestyle she loves, a perception that records with truth her joy in the countryside and her own being.
She is a poet of today and tomorrow employing familiar images and, whilst her harvest together flowers, fields of grain and the gentle populations of nature, you will also find fast cars, music and dancing. Her poems have distinctive elegance and her economies of language only serve to accentuate her vision.
Norman S. Jackson