PATTI TANA, When You Make Your Way Across This Bridge, Whittier Publications, 2003
Make Your Way Across This Bridge, new and selected writings by Nassau
Community College educator Patti Tana, was released earlier this
year, there was plenty of reason for those who know her work to
whose impact on regional writers has ranged from years of teaching
poetry at NCC to serving as a co-editor of the seminal Long Island
Quarterly since its inception, is author of several collections
of poetry, both regionally and nationally. Perhaps her best known
poem is "Post Humus," which was collected in the much-quoted anthology
"When I Am Old I Shall Wear Purple." And as a writer whose work
was released through Papier Mache Press, an organization with a
highly reputed distribution record, her work has made the rounds
of national poetry circuits.
Tana grew up on the Hudson River in Peekskill, and has made her
home on Long Island for many years, where she is professor of English
and coordinator of the Creative Writing Project of Nassau Community
her publishing credits are five previous chapbooks, including the
1981 How Odd This Ritual Of Harmony, Ask the Dreamer Where Night
Begins (1986), The River (1990), Wetlands (1993) and the 1998 When
The Light Falls Short of the Dream.
collection contains selections from her five earlier books and a
section of new poems. Of the work, William Heyen praises her "sense
of loveliness...always in conflict with darker knowledge," and calls
the work "strong poems to my ear." And Hedda Marcus says that Tana
"keeps the heart of things visible."
the first, Tana's voice reveals an individual enthralled with the
visceral and tactile elements of personhood, weaving a spell into
the moment to produce images and situations that are richly passionate
and illuminated with a balance of grace and intensity.
'stories' of her poems vary widely - from a child sledding in the
snow to an adult dancing by the ocean at night; from a woman watching
her son leave the nest to a daughter feeling her mother's embrace
as she, in turn, embraces her child. We hear, with Heyen, in her
phrasings a gently insistent music, richly textured and affirming.
times the work is frankly sensual: "Drawn to the silk of your skin/my
body follows your hollows and hills/warm in the early chill." "The
Soul needs sweets." "She feels someone watching/and lays a ribbon
across the page/to hold her place/and looks up at the near man/swaing
with the motion of the train."
times the moment is more philosophical, as in Night's Eye, which
in five lines rushes to the heart of the moment:
my window birds call.
Go to your day, I tell them.
Fling yourself dizzy.
Sweep the empty sky.
I want to stay in night's eye.
also demonstrates she is not averse to paradox and conundrum, as
in "Touched By Zero."
matter how many
march along the rim of the hill
zero follows like a hungry shadow
it collects the bill
charged at birth
brother then two
One two three fathers
A child in my small round womb
touched by zero
early affinity for place, particularly the wetlands of Long Beach
and the river vistas of the Hudson, remain an element in her writing
as well, though there is a sense of halting departure present, as
opposed to the flush of new discovery - almost as if she wishes
to stop the sun in its progress through heaven, as in the recent
poem "Long Beach": "For twenty-five years/we've walked by the sea
on this/narrow strip of land/Now beneath a sky/tender with the blush
of pink/you reach for my hand."
are mature works by a poet of considerable accomplishment, written
with a tenderness that mercifully eschews embarassing the reader.