Keith Taylor was born in British Columbia in 1952. He spent his childhood in Alberta and his adolescence in Indiana. After several years of traveling, he moved to Michigan, where he earned his MA in English at Central Michigan University. He has worked as a camp-boy for a hunting outfitter in the Yukon, as a dishwasher in southern France, a housepainter in Indiana and Ireland, a freight handler, a teacher, a freelance writer, the co-host of a radio talk show, and as the night attendant at a pinball arcade in California. For more than 20 years, he worked as a bookseller in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Now he teaches part-time at the University of Michigan, where he coordinates the undergraduate program in creative writing and directs the Bear River Writers Conference. In 2010, he began working as the Poetry Editor at Michigan Quarterly Review. He lives with his wife and daughter in Ann Arbor.
Taylor's poems, stories, book reviews, translations, and feature articles have appeared in many journals, magazines, and newspapers in North America and in Europe, including the Ann Arbor Observer, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Birding, Caliban, The Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Free Press, The Fourth Genre, Hanging Loose, The Iowa Review, The Los Angeles Times, Michigan Quarterly Review, Mondo Greco, New Letters, The Notre Dame Review, Phoebe, Pivot, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Greece, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Southern Review, Story, The Sunday Telegraph Magazine (London), Witness, The Wooster Review, etc. His work has also been included in anthologies and other books published by Michigan State University Press, Harvard University Press, Oxford University Press, The University of Michigan Press, W.W. Norton, Wayne State University Press, The Isle Royale Natural History Association, Milkweed Editions, and others.
Keith Taylor's most recent books are Marginalia for a Natural History published by Black Lawrence Press and Ghost Writers: Us Haunting Them, co-edited with Laura Kasischke and published by Wayne State University Press. He has published five chapbooks of poetry: Learning to Dance (Falling Water Books, 1985); Weather Report (Ridgeway Press, 1988); Dream of the Black Wolf: Notes from Isle Royale (Ridgeway Press, 1993); Detail from the Garden of Delights (Limited Mailing Press, 1993); and Everything I Need (March Street Press, 1996). His collection of very short stories, Life Science and Other Stories, was published by Hanging Loose Press in 1995. With John Knott, Taylor co-edited the anthology The Huron River: Voices from the Watershed (The University of Michigan Press, 2000), which was a finalist in 2001 for the Great Lakes Book Award for General Nonfiction and was selected for the 2001 Read Michigan List by the Governor’s Office of the State of Michigan. With Artemis Leontis and Lauren Talalay, he co-edited the collection What These Ithakas Mean: Readings in Cavafy (Athens, Greece: E.L.I.A., 2002), which was picked as one of the "Books of the Year" for 2002 in the Times Literary Supplement. His book Guilty at the Rapture, which includes poetry, short stories, and essays, was published by Hanging Loose Press in 2006, and was chosen as one of the Michigan Notable Books of the Year for 2007 by the Library of Michigan. His book of translations, Battered Guitars: The Poetry and Prose of Kostas Karyotakis, done with William W. Reader, was published in 2006 by the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman, and Modern Greek Studies at The University of Birmingham, in the United Kingdom.
In the fall of 2001, Taylor was co-host of a 13-week radio program, Storylines America: Midwestern Literature, funded by the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities. It was broadcast by National Public Radio stations in the eight-state Midwestern region, and received the "Best Award in Special Programming" from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He was a featured artist on the PBS documentary Isle Royale Reflections. The text of his poem “Upper Midwestern Apologia” and his reading of it were used by the composer Evan Chambers in his piece of electronic music of the same title. That prize-winning piece appeared on the compact disc XVI Concorso Internazionale Luigi Russolo di Musica Electroaucstica, released in 1994 in Varese, Italy. In 2007, Chambers commissioned another poem, "All the Time You Need," to accompany his song cycle The Old Burying Ground, which was premiered at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor in December 2007. That cycle was toured by the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra during the winter of 2008, concluding with a performance at Carnegie Hall. A recording of this piece with Taylor reading his poem was released by Dorian Recordings in 2010. A reading of his short story “The Customer” was performed by actor Jeffrey Wright at New York's Symphony Space; that performance was re-broadcast on the National Public Radio program Selected Shorts. In 2003, Taylor began serving as co-editor with Charles Baxter of Sweetwater Fiction: Reintroductions: a series of reprinted fiction by earlier Midwestern writers that is published by the University of Michigan Press. In 2006, he became an editor at Dzanc Books, a nonprofit publisher of literary fiction. Taylor reads his work regularly on the radio, at colleges and universities, in high schools, libraries, art museums, bars, and coffee houses. He also lectures widely on contemporary fiction, poetry, the craft of writing, and environmental literature.
Keith Taylor has received a fellowship in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts and a grant for fiction from The Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs. He has served as Artist-in-Residence at Isle Royale National Park and as Writer-in-the-Community for the Writer's Voice at the Detroit YMCA. In 2002, he was in residence at the International Writers' and Translators' Center of Rhodes, Greece, to continue work on the translation of the poetry of Kostas Karyotakis with his co-translator, William W. Reader. In 2004, the translation of two of those poems by Karyotakis was awarded the Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard Award from Poetry Greece. The book that resulted from that project, Battered Guitars, was short-listed for the Greek State Translation Prize in 2007, and was runner-up for the TLS/Hellenic Society/Society of Authors Translation Award in 2008.
In 2004, Taylor received a research grant from the Center for the Ethnography of Everyday Life at the University of Michigan, so he could pursue archival work on a project that attempts to recreate the life of his pioneering ancestors in Alberta, Canada. For the 2005–2006 school year, he was chosen as Writer in Residence at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor. In the winter of 2007, he was a Senior Writing Fellow at the Sweetland Writing Center of the University of Michigan. In 2008, he was given the Matthews Teaching Award for Excellence by the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan.