The Necessary Word: A Tribute to John Taggart

   FlashPoint is proud to pay tribute to John Taggart, who retired from his academic post at Shippensburg State University at the end of the 2000-2001 school year.  His verse shows the sincere attention paid to his craft for nearly forty years, creating poetry with an equal mixture of shape, sound, and intellection.  While all poets work with these concepts, Taggart’s poetry is shaped as sculpture on the page, is transmuted into sound structures by the voice, and throughout shows a process of searching and discovery.  Time spent with Taggart’s verse will reveal a poet of unique substance and style.  The following special section, then, is to celebrate John Taggart and what he has accomplished so far in his work.

John has been kind to give us a new poem, ‘Rhythm & Blues Singer,’ a poem which continues themes that reverberate elsewhere in his poetry.  We are especially pleased that Robert Creeley has provided the poem, 'John's Song,' which makes its first appearance here.  We know his contribution means as much to John as it does to us.  To these I have added a short poem related to jazz, a topic John knows well.

The interview, over 15,000 words worth, was conducted on two separate occasions, on September 13, 2001 and January 8, 2002.  It covers a wide range of topics, from John’s ‘life & contacts,’ to his compositional techniques, to his appraisal of the current position of the poet in society (in other words, a 'kitchen sink' interview).  As noted in the preface to the interview, the purpose from the beginning was to produce an interview that would be of interest to those new to John’s poetry as well as to those who have been reading it for some time.

We have been fortunate to have three discriminating critics contribute to the section.  FlashPoint Contributing Editor Mark Scroggins supplies a look at John’s poetry in relation to the contemporary music scene, from classical minimalism to the Talking Heads.    Burt Kimmelman provides a useful investigation of John’s placement in the current poetic climate.  And David Clippinger delivers an essay on the importance and influence of Maps, the seminal little magazine John edited in the 1960s and 70s.

It should also be noted that this is the first time John has, to my knowledge, worked with an online journal, being, as he once described himself, ‘the last of the non-techno Mohicans.’  Indeed, the electronic format is a far cry from John’s own letter press and bound copies of Maps, with no more than four hundred copies of each issue printed.  Still, we hope this bundle of items pleases him, and allows his work to experience even greater exposure - something the internet certainly can accomplish.

                                                               - Brad N. Haas, February 2002