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Walking The Dog In A Time of Rage is the testimonial of a good man—a man “filled with a holy anger.” A true son of Mother Earth whom the patriarchy has not seduced with beer, big trucks, breast augmentation, “baby sharks, and dancing dolls.” And guns. Guns. Guns. These poems bear witness, deftly, beautifully, with good humor, and great humanity to a planet and a people trapped in a capitalist “white Jesus Theocracy” that demands everyone salute its unholy, shiny nightmare with a smarmy and confrontational, "Merry Christmas.” But these poems also give hope. They ask us to remember who we are. Who we love. What we revere. What will heal us. Using memory, dream, myth, they are shamanic and incantatory. Invoking Mothra and The Luminous Twins, Satyrs who wonder “when we stopped worshipping trees.” And goddesses who confront the annihilating trinity of patriarchy, theocracy, and capitalism with the wisdom and primal fury of their naked bodies. “Isis Hel Amatersu Ixchel Inana Sheela na gig Kali Kwan Yin Athena.” Their names coming to us as Taggart’s poems do, as powerful witness, as a sacred crack in the insanity, as a wake up call.
In these poems Phil Taggart blends ecology (“out over the Pacific an island plastic island size of Texas”, political commentary (“Jim Crow is making a comeback in legislatures”), mythological characters, and snapshots of his personal life (“I walked around the block twice today still ankle pain”). It seems that this physical pain dialogues with a society that also aches because of injustice and violence (thousands of children are taken from their parents).
Walking the Dog in a Time of Rage is a book of passion and wisdom. The language flows with disarming honesty and reveals a poet that is not afraid of being who he is. Yes, we watch the acknowledgment of rage (“this anger swirls inside we don’t know what to do”), but the author gives voice to hope and future: “of course everyone passes me just happy to walk again.”
Phil Taggart in Rick Sings offers us an eyewitness, heart witness report from the
edges. He gives voice to his mentally ill brother who is both his responsibility and
his guide on a journey through the past and into the restricted urban spaces where those with mental illness are allowed. His intense poems, both sorrowing and redemptive, are made with such care and skill that they become openings to almost invisible lives. Phil ignites small flames that flicker against the larger dark…cigarettes, disinfectant, urine/ and the songs of each room/ bleed into the hall… The rhythmic power of the poems leads us into that hard won place where suffering and confusion meet mystery.
Here the struggles of the homeless, disadvantaged, dispossessed, come richly and profoundly alive. A sad, strange family dynamic, the struggles and energies of those dogged by mental and social instability, have found in Phil Taggart a monumentalizing poet. He sings of them, of the engaging Rick to whom he is devoted particularly, with redeeming honesty, sharp-mindedness and love. Theseare poems that follow the beat of a generous heart.
In Rick Sings Phil Taggart testifies to life in its most difficult and ungenerous situations . . . yet from this he finds a voice, a music, that is clear, courageous, and committed to living. He has made a poetry that in its candidness and compassion finds a spare but essential meaning, a saving grace—a poetry that rescues his brother Rick, that rescues us all.