“A graceful work of fiction…It makes us wonder whether all simple things are not also strange.”
– Bob Hicok, Ann Arbor Observer
Keith Taylor was born in British Columbia in 1952. He spent his childhood in Alberta and his adolescence in Indiana. After several years of traveling, he moved to Michigan, where he earned his M.A. in English at Central Michigan University. He has worked as a camp-boy for a hunting outfitter in the Yukon, as a dishwasher in southern France, a housepainter in Indiana and Ireland, a freight handler, a teacher, a freelance writer, the co-host of a radio talk show, and as the night attendant at a pinball arcade in California. For more than twenty years he worked as a bookseller in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Then he taught in the undergraduate and graduate creative writing programs at the University of Michigan, and directed the Bear River Writers Conference. From 2010–2018 he worked as the Poetry Editor at Michigan Quarterly Review. He retired from the University of Michigan in 2018. He lives with his wife in Ann Arbor; they have one daughter.
His poems, stories, book reviews, translations and feature articles have appeared in many journals, magazines and newspapers in North America and in Europe, including The Ann Arbor Observer, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Birding, Caliban, The Chicago Tribune, The Detroit Free Press, The Fourth Genre, Hanging Loose, The Iowa Review, The Los Angeles Times, Michigan Quarterly Review, Mondo Greco, New Letters, The Notre Dame Review, Phoebe, Pivot, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Greece, Poets and Writers, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Southern Review, Story, The Sunday Telegraph Magazine (London), Witness, The Wooster Review, etc. His work has also been included in anthologies and other books published by Michigan State University Press, Harvard University Press, Oxford University Press, The University of Michigan Press, W.W. Norton, Wayne State University Press, The Isle Royale Natural History Association, Milkweed Editions, and others.
Keith Taylor's most recent book is The Bird-while from Wayne State University Press. It won the Bronze Award from the Foreword Indies Poetry Book of the Year for 2017. His recent chapbooks, Ecstatic Destinations (2018), Fidelities (2015) and The Ancient Murrelet (2013), were published by Alice Greene & Co. In addition to larger and edited collections, he has published eight chapbooks of poetry. His collection of very short stories, Life Science and Other Stories, was published by Hanging Loose Press in 1995. With John Knott, Taylor co-edited the anthology The Huron River: Voices from the Watershed (The University of Michigan Press, 2000), which was a finalist in 2001 for the Great Lakes Book Award for General Nonfiction and was selected for the 2001 Read Michigan List by the Governor’s Office of the State of Michigan. With Artemis Leontis and Lauren Talalay, he co-edited the collection What These Ithakas Mean: Readings in Cavafy (Athens, Greece: E.L.I.A., 2002), which was picked as one of the “Books of the Year” for 2002 in the Times Literary Supplement. His book Guilty at the Rapture, which includes poetry, short stories and essays, was published by Hanging Loose Press in 2006, and was chosen as one of the Michigan Notable Books of the Year for 2007 by the Library of Michigan. His book of translations, Battered Guitars: The Poetry and Prose of Kostas Karyotakis, done with William W. Reader, was published in the Fall, 2006, by the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman, and Modern Greek Studies at The University of Birmingham, in the United Kingdom.
In the Fall of 2001, he was co-host of a 13 week radio program, “Storylines America: Midwestern Literature,” funded by the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities. It was broadcast by National Public Radio stations in the 8 state Midwestern region, and received the “Best Award in Special Programming” from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He was a featured artist on the PBS documentary “Isle Royale Reflections.” The text of his poem “Upper Midwestern Apologia” and his reading of it were used by the composer Evan Chambers in his piece of electronic music of the same title. That prize-winning piece appeared on the compact disc “XVI Concorso Internazionale Luigi Russolo di Musica Electroaucstica” released in 1994 in Varese, Italy. In 2007 Chambers commissioned another poem, "All the Time You Need," to accompany his song cycle, "The Old Burying Ground," which was premiered at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Mi., in December, 2007. That cycle was toured by the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra during the winter of 2008, concluding with a performance at Carnegie Hall. A recording of this piece with Taylor reading his poem was released by Dorian Recordings in 2010. A reading of his short story, “The Customer,” was performed by the actor Jeffrey Wright at New York’s Symphony Space; that performance was rebroadcast on the National Public Radio program “Selected Shorts.” Taylor reads his work regularly on the radio, at colleges and universities, in high schools, libraries, art museums, bars and coffee houses. He also lectures widely on contemporary fiction, poetry, the craft of writing, and environmental literature.
Keith Taylor has received a fellowship in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts and a grant for fiction from The Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs. He has served as Artist-in-Residence at Isle Royale National Park and at the University of Michigan Biological Station, as well as Writer-in-the-Community for the Writer’s Voice at the Detroit YMCA. In 2002 he was in residence at the International Writers’ and Translators’ Center of Rhodes, Greece, to continue work on the translation of the poetry of Kostas Karyotakis with his co-translator, William W. Reader. In 2004 the translation of two of those poems by Karyotakis was awarded the Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard Award from Poetry Greece. The book that resulted from that project, Battered Guitars: Poetry and Prose of Kostas Karyotakis, was short-listed for the Greek State Translation Prize in 2007, and was runner-up for the TLS/Hellenic Society/Society of Authors Translation Award in 2008.
In 2004 he received a research grant from the Center for the Ethnography of Everyday Life at the University of Michigan, so he could pursue archival work on a project that attempts to recreate the life of his pioneering ancestors in Alberta, Canada. For the 2005/2006 school year, he was chosen as Writer in Residence at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In the Winter of 2007, he was a Senior Writing Fellow at the Sweetland Writing Center of the University of Michigan. In 2008, he was given the Matthews Teaching Award for Excellence by the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan. In 2013 he was named A.L. Becker Collegiate Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Michigan. In 2018, the Keith Taylor Poetry Prize was endowed as a new Hopwood Award at the University of Michigan.