Imperfect Tense by Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor


From Anthropology and Humanism:

Read a beautiful review by Ather Zia: Zia-2017-Anthropology_and_Humanism

From Mexico Retold:

“[Cahnmann-Taylor] is the kind of poet who delights in language and its fluidity…  I particularly love her interest in how learning Spanish can trip you up in ways you had never imagined. Her poems… are fascinating and funny and offer  clever insight into learning Spanish….” —Susannah Rigg, Mexico Retold



 From Mom Egg Review:

“Wisdom, wit, and compassion characterize Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor’s first book of poems, Imperfect Tense.” Read the review here.

“Melisa Cahnmann is one funny and serious poet.  Come on board and enjoy her play with language—make that languages, plural, please. Then discover how a woman can be passionate and compassionate, personal and universal, appetites intact, body and mind fully alive, though she remembers “a broken world I am.”  As we all are.

—Alicia Ostriker, author of The Book of Seventy

“Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor’s Imperfect Tense asks questions of language in the way a philosopher must ask questions of morality.  Cahnmann-Taylor is a poet of ethics, using her powers to explore the meanings of all things we take for granted.  The formal poems in this collection stress the duty of the poet to subvert and to perfect the subversion.”

—Jericho Brown, author of Please and The New Testament


“Gender made it worse, “ writes Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, referring not only to sexual nature but, more implicitly, to the grammar that attempts to inscribe it. Her poems underscore political, linguistic and romantic turbulence with wisdom, humor, and yes, craft. Imperfect Tense suspends us in multiple layers of meaning and introduces us to a poet—“what a broken world I am” —of moral depth and consequence.”
—Michael Waters, author of Gospel Night and Darling Vulgarity


“The ancient Greeks called themselves, and therefore us, ‘the language animal.’ These poems are about language and are brilliant evocations of what it is like to be human in a world that seems to make that more and more difficult.This is an original and powerful book.”

—Thomas Lux, author of To the Left of Time and The Cradle Place


“Learning a second language anchors this collection and serves as a metaphor for living in community with others. ‘Survival’s a trade’ one speaker declares, three words that yoke the ‘Southern transplant’ to international students, refugees and undocumented youth. The language of family life—‘The rabbi says we never own our sons./ On loan these boys like never-ending books’ —reveals the poet’s fine ear and compassion for our ‘imperfect’ world.”

—Robin Becker, author of Tiger Heron

Amazon Reviews

“Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor’s ‘Imperfect Tense’ does something rare among the work of contemporary poets: it bridges the (often artificial) divide between rigorous, thoughtful, knowledgeable insights on language and culture, and the ebullient, explosive, infectious passion of an artist emerged and engaged with her communities. Cahnamann-Taylor’s poetry – sometimes political, sometimes personal, often revealing, and always fierce and fearless – gives voice and humanity to the subjects she explores. Issues of justice, identity, and faith are combined with rhythmic pacing and precise language to eclectically – and tastefully – furnish the rooms of the worlds she constructs. Studies of language, education, cultural identity, and the fears of assimilationism (too often championed by those who would dictate a homogeneous cultural identity) ask readers to look past notions of ‘perfection,’ and rather focus on our common humanity.”


“I am loving this book of poems. Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor is a talented poet and storyteller.”


“Great book, illustrating how formalism and empiricism can make great poems.”

 LibraryThing & Goodreads Reviews

“She captures the poetry of being a foreigner imperfectly but expertly…[in progress]. Pre-edit take on it is that she really knows her stuff – even after teaching ESL myself I sometimes struggle with her allusions. I suppose this speaks to the fact that I taught it so long ago and taught it imperfectly. I especially enjoy the narrative quality to her poems – a story is priceless and she often turns a pithy phrase. I received an Uncorrected Proof from Whitepoint Press to whom [I] owe a big heap of thanks.”


“I am teaching on a middle school team next year with a high population of ELL students and students who are first and second generation immigrants. I was excited to receive a poetry collection that focuses on the immigrant community and the importance of diverse languages. The contemporary voice I think will be appealing to my teen reading audience as well since poetry is typically not what this age group will pick off of my shelves to read first.”


“There were some astute observations in the second part (Past Tense) about teaching English and poetry to immigrants. “Undocumented Youth March for In-State Tuition” and “1750, Natural History of Barbados in Ten Books, Russell Special Collections” were both powerful pieces. I loved the language and images in “Dragon Fruit” and “Georgia Horizontal.”


“I enjoyed this book of poetry so much! I studied linguistics in college and have a fascination with foreign languages. Ms. Cahnmann-Taylor’s poems made me laugh as she explored the crazy things you can say with a relatively minor error when speaking a language that isn’t your own.”


“Imperfect Tense is a poetic meditation on bilingualism and multiculturalism. Through the use of linguistic play, these poems cover the cultural divide between native speakers of one language and another in a way that is insightful, humorous, and playful. These poems give the reader insight into the way that our language informs our cultural and familial identities. Cahnmann-Taylor’s poems are a delight to read individually or as a cohesive poetics.”


I just read Imperfect Tense (twice) and loved it. There is an enriching arc of exploration and engagement through the selection of poems that I found quite lovely. I also had the good fortune to attend a lively reading by Cahnmann-Taylor last night. Fantastic – she brought out even more richness and the dialogue in these poems than on the page. She’ll be doing a bit of a book tour, I hear, so if you have a chance to attend a reading – go!”