Tenderblog reader Garrett Cullen* has alerted us to another poetry book about the Tenderloin: So Much Is Burning, by William Taylor Jr (a resident of the Tenderloin, of course), and published in 2006 by Sunnyoutside.

Cover of So much is burning

Here’s how the back cover of the book describes it:

So Much Is Burning introduces readers to the inner city of San Francisco, immersing them in the infamous Tenderloin neighborhood. Poignantly observing the beauty and despair that pervade the daily lives of its inhabitants, Taylor’s poetry delves into the elements that give the bars and streets lives of their own.

What results are empathetic illustrations of the human condition that possess a strong sense of place and celebrate the spectrum of emotions that comprise our existence, all tied together by photographs that complement the poetry’s stark imagery.

Garrett Cullen tells us the poems in So much is burning range “from our hardest working women on the streets to the raging sirens of our busiest firehouses”.

And then adds, “It’s incredible”. In case you’re starting to feel like reading it (it’s only $10), here’s the opening poem in the book as taste, in which not only Polk makes an appearance, but also the 38 bus!

Tenderloin Heights
Polk Street on a Wednesday afternoon
people wait on street corners for
some kind of luck

a block to the south
men sleep on sidewalks
and in doorways

a block to the north
people sit at window tables
in little restaurants
drinking 50 dollars bottles of wine

on a day when loneliness
follows you close like some sad-eyed dog

you stand on a corner and look around
and all directions seem the same

the busses going up and down Geary Boulevard
are crammed with far too many people
going to places they’d rather not go

and the sadness in your bones
will not be named
or explained away.

You can read more about his choice of the Tenderloin as poetic matter, as well as his creative process, in this insightful interview by Charles P. Ries.

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