Trinidad-born Brooklyn poet Meryvn Taylor revisits his roots in this new collection.
“I’m starting to feel the womb again,” Mervyn Taylor announces early in this new collection of poetry; and for him to be born again, he must travel back “Where We Began” through his childhood in Trinidad, through memories of family and especially of his father, “responsible / for keeping the trains moving.” Taylor keeps us moving as well, conducting us on a journey across the Caribbean and through his life in Brooklyn aboard The Last Train. The book is dedicated to Jamaican poet Anthony McNeill, and the middle section is a “Jamaica suite” recalling times the two poets spent together, a place where “you better listen to the beat.” The closing section “What Became of Us” brings us up to the traumatic present, with George Floyd and other police killings, immigrant family separations, lives lost to apartment blazes, and the war in Ukraine. But this is a story of survivors, and survival, and Taylor’s closing poem observes how on Trinidad and Tobago the sea strand is public property, a commons that recalls origins and promises a future: “like flotsam we arrived, / and like driftwood, we stayed.”
“The Last Train: a perfect title for a collection marked by such a consummate art of poetic closure. Mervyn Taylor’s poems move and dance as if wearing masks, mask upon mask. Sometimes, they drop one of them along the way; a few more steps, and the meaning will be uncovered. Dazzled, we onlookers hold onto those pages that ‘leave powder on [our] hands.’ It’s NOT ‘the last train’, though: Mervyn Taylor is at the height of his talent—sure-handed yet vulnerable, committed to the departed, and attentive, always, to the direction to which the wind will carry today’s sound of rage and drums.” —Sylvie Kandé, author of The Neverending Quest for the Other Shore: An Epic in Three Cantos
“‘One good thing about music, / the women sing, when it hits / you, you feel no pain.’ Poetry is such a force and mystery in Mervyn Taylor’s hands. His poems take us from Second World War Trinidad to George Floyd’s America. There is a human life in this book. We see what historians won’t: a tongue-tied stranger with calla lilies at a poetry reading, a ‘small child / sweeping glass into a dustpan.’ Steve Cannon is here and Garcia Marquez, sexual fulfillment and ‘the dagger of the world.’ Taylor’s vision is luminous. What it discloses can be searing. Please read The Last Train. It’s breathtaking.” —D. Nurkse, author of A Country of Strangers: New & Selected Poems
“As we age, what seems farthest from us is closer than we understand. We know but do not understand the weight of sunrise and sunset, how our parents lived and died, how fleeting loves and lasting heartaches still visit us. This is the mystery in The Last Train, the way what we remember and know swirls around inside us, looking for a common origin, a place where
we not only know but accept the greater gift of love. What Trinidad knows, Taylor breathes, and what the world does not know of a Trinidadian soul, these poems will teach them. This is a collection full of its silvery self, becoming golden.” —Afaa M. Weaver, author of Spirit Boxing
Poetry. African & African American Studies.
Mervyn Taylor, a Trinidad-born poet and longtime Brooklyn resident, has taught at Bronx Community College, The New School and in the New York City public school system. He is the author of seven books of poetry, including The Waving Gallery (2014), and most recently, Country of Warm Snow (2020), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation that was listed for the Bocas Lit Prize. A chapbook, NEWS OF THE LIVING: CORONA POEMS, was published by Broadstone in 2020. Currently, Taylor serves as co-editor on the advisory board of Slapering Hol Press, Hudson Valley, New York.