Eleanor Ross Taylor

1920 –

Eleanor Lilly Ross was born June 30, 1920, on a farm near Norwood, North Carolina. When she was nine years old, she published her first poem in a local newspaper. In 1940, Taylor graduated from the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) and went on to graduate school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

While Taylor was studying at Vanderbilt, fellow writers Caroline Gordon and Allen Tate introduced her to novelist Peter Taylor. They married within six weeks, and Eleanor Taylor followed her husband to academic jobs in North Carolina, Ohio, Massachusetts, and ultimately Virginia, where they lived for many years.

In 1960, Eleanor Taylor published her first book of poetry, Wilderness of Ladies (McDowell, Obolensky). Throughout her career, she received critical praise from respected poets such as Randall Jarrell. Influenced by Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eleanor Taylor’s poems are known for their blunt, modernist poetics; they’re fragmented, tightly crafted works of free verse whose language is rooted in a regional foundation. Though Eleanor Taylor never labeled herself a feminist writer, her poems contain a clear awareness of the difficulties of women’s lives. In her New York Times review of Eleanor Taylor’s second collection, Welcome Eumenides (George Braziller, 1972), poet and critic Adrienne Rich wrote that Taylor’s poems “speak of the underground life of women … coping, hoarding, preserving, observing, keeping up appearances, seeing through the myths and hypocrisies, nursing the sick, conspiring with sister-women, possessed of a will to survive and to see others survive.”

Eleanor Taylor published four other poetry collections: Captive Voices: New and Selected Poems, 1960–2008 (Louisiana State University Press, 2009); Late Leisure (Louisiana State University Press, 1999); Days Going/Days Coming Back (University of Utah Press, 1991); and New and Selected Poems (Stuart Wright, 1983). Her awards include the 1998 Shelley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America, the 2000 Virginia Prize for Poetry from the Library of Virginia, and the 2000 Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry. In 2009, she was granted membership in the Fellowship of Southern Writers. The following year, she won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, awarded to a “living U.S. poet whose lifetime accomplishments warrant extraordinary recognition.”

Eleanor Taylor died on December 30, 2012, in Falls Church, Virginia, at the age of ninety-one. 


Captive Voices: New and Selected Poems, 1960–2008 (Louisiana State University Press, 2009)
Late Leisure (Louisiana State University Press, 1999)
Days Going/Days Coming Back (University of Utah Press, 1991)
New and Selected Poems (Stuart Wright, 1983)
Welcome Eumenides (George Braziller, 1972)
Wilderness of Ladies (McDowell, Obolensky, 1960)