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.
Rope Bridge: Poems by Nan Cohan
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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