Rope Bridge: Poems by Nan Cohan

Nan Cohen
  • Review
By – October 18, 2011

A final­ist for the Koret Award for an Emerg­ing Writer on Jew­ish themes, Nan Cohen jux­ta­pos­es the metaphors of sea­sons and bridges to depict the cycles of rela­tion­ships over a life­time. Meet the young man cross­ing a frag­ile rope bridge in the title poem. His jour­ney par­al­lels this writer’s invig­o­rat­ing, poet­ic cre­ation, a task pro­duc­ing an ecsta­t­ic almost sex­u­al con­nec­tion in which “…he is now part of a clas­sic experiment/​on the attri­bu­tion of a height­ened state/(his quick­ened pulse, the trem­bling in his knees)…Who would say: it is fear that takes my breath, that wets my palms, that spins my heart in my chest -/​the fear that sleeps in me, eas­i­ly roused/​from its light sleep, with wind/​with ropes, with words?” Watch and won­der at the bib­li­cal reflec­tions of A Spy in Canaan” who cuts down the heavy clus­ter of grapes, places them in a bowl, and is besieged by a “…clus­ter of reproaches:/why should my teeth/​burst those taut skins?/Let some­one else have them./Let them shriv­el, even -/​it was a mistake/​sending us into this land.” Nan Cohen sug­gests that the vibrant push and pull of expe­ri­ence dri­ves us through life toward ful­fill­ment with regrets con­stant­ly jux­ta­pos­ing each oth­er — per­haps Kol Nidre” says it best. Like the prayer of atone­ment, we ask for for­give­ness for the uncon­scious way in which “…The world gives us so much/​without being asked. /​But again and again/​we break our promis­es to it…” Whether she is reflect­ing on a trans­lat­ed poet, the best friend of Ham­let, the fear of pla­gia­rism in Helen Keller,” or grief, Nan Cohen’s poet­ry cre­ates in the read­er a vig­or­ous yearn­ing to grasp and cher­ish the moment, no mat­ter what threat time pos­es, for, as she states in Fes­ti­val of Booths,” “…Your roof is open to the count­less stars.” Sim­ply put, lovely.

Deb­o­rah Schoen­e­man, is a for­mer Eng­lish teacher/​Writing Across the Cur­ricu­lum Cen­ter Coor­di­na­tor at North Shore Hebrew Acad­e­my High School and coed­i­tor of Mod­ern Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture: A Library of Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism, Vol. VI, pub­lished in 1997.

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