Love, Absence and Loss, Filtered Through Philosophical Poems

Love, Absence and Loss, Filtered Through Philosophical Poems

In Brenda Shaughnessy's collection “Tanya,” the self is fluid and love is “timelessness itself.” Credit…Gina Guasch Team TANYA: Poems, by Brenda Shaughnessy Attempt to ferret out the origins of the name “Tanya,” and you'll find yourself awash in contradiction. A Russian name, it's a diminutive of “Tatiana,” one source declares. Another insists the name is not Russian at all. A third states that this very Russian appellation means “fairy queen.” Some websites contend that “Tanya” comes from a Latin or Greek root meaning something like “define.” This flurry of conflicting information is an apt lead-in to Brenda Shaughnessy's definition-questioning poems. The construction of self, the joys and vagaries of language and meaning-making, and the relationship between thought and feeling are abiding themes here. Of the last, the poet observes, “I don't think I'm brainy because I love too much/the feeling of my thoughts moving/aside to let new ones in,/and the mixing feels so good,/I begin to crave it.” How intellect and emotion mesh and are embodied in art is a key subject in these poems. Appropriately, constructing double strands of thought and feeling is one of the poet's dominant compositional strategies. Shaughnessy has long exhibited a taste for philosophy. In particular, she gravitates toward ontology, which considers the nature of being. While that may sound dry, Shaughnessy's poems are not. Juicy models of lyrical reasoning, bring together wordplay and rhetoric. This is a book in which the poet's ability “to imagine and to wonder/fiercely” never flags. The […]

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