Tanya: Poems

Knopf. Mar. 2023. 112p. ISBN 9780593535936. $28. POETRY
“Where, on its way, did an idea become a physical object?” And how, on its way, did this study of ideas become such a probing, richly rendered collection of poems? Shaughnessy follows the LJ best-booked The Octopus Museum with a reflection on women artists as friends, mentors, and influencers (“my fire handed down to me by cauldron witches”) and, more largely, women as makers in this world, who “cupped their hands/ to make baskets/ to catch babies” and heretofore have been less travelers than “the traveled.” To show that “a road cannot take you anywhere. You must take it,” she moves from dancer Georgina Pazcoguin to an array of visual artists (e.g., Torkwase Dyson and Ursula von Rydingsvard) as she follows their roads, their embodying of ideas. Probing the act of creating art means probing what art can do—its catching “a cross section of a skipped stone mid-skip”—and what the artist’s responsibilities and limits really are. 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.”
VERDICT A remarkable book achieving all its ambitions; highly recommended.
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