The award-winning poet weaves a tapestry of literary heritage and intimate reflection as she pays tribute to women artists and mentors, and circles the ongoing mysteries of friendship, love, art, and loss.
In this powerful gathering of poems about her own "influencers," as well as poems on Dadaist artist Méret Oppenheim and the young choreographer Lauren Lovette, Brenda Shaughnessy dwells in memories of the women who set her on her artistic path.
In the title poem, she explores the eternal quality of an intense touchstone relationship with Tanya, about whom she writes, "Everyone's not you to me . . . Worth loving once, why not now?" We all have our own Tanya, and in this book we meet friends, mentors, sisters, lovers, who inhabit a verse classroom where Shaughnessy's passion for literature—forged in her own formative studies, as in the poem "Coursework"—is our teacher.
In flowing stair-step tercets, Shaughnessy leads us down into her generative core, exposing moments of spiritual and intellectual awakening, her love of art and the written word, and her sense of the life force itself, which is ignited by the conversation—across time and space—with other women.
Praise for Tanya: Poems
“Juicy models of lyrical reasoning, [Shaughnessy’s poems] bring together wordplay and rhetoric . . . The poems have a fertile restlessness. They don’t settle into epiphanies but continue layering, swerving, branching, reconsidering . . . Her vibrant dives into the possibilities of [the self] invest it with multitudes . . . In the Shaughnessy multiverse, everything contains everything else, or has that capacity . . . Femaleness and iterations of feminism provide a framework for “Tanya.” The collection can be seen in part as a version of midlife stock-taking, via odes to women artists, mentors, lovers, frenemies and former selves . . . Shaughnessy [traces] her own derivation and education through myriad mothers, stretching definitions of “mother” to include frictions, crushes, heartbreaks and inspirations that became part of her DNA . . . Chief among the new book’s many subjects are love, absence and loss: how to live with or without them . . . [Shaughnessy] writes about love as being “timelessness itself”. This is a book in which the poet’s ability “to imagine and to wonder/fiercely” never flags.” —Amy Gerstler, New York Times
“A probing, richly rendered collection of poems . . . a reflection on women artists as friends, mentors, and influencers…Shaughnessy relentlessly sifts and shifts through our image making, seeking clarity while recognizing that life is ‘not a straight story or a jagged line.’ Meanwhile, she celebrates the eponymous Tanya, wanting to ‘repair the path between us.’ A remarkable book achieving all its ambitions.” —Library Journal (starred review)