By virtue of its antiquity we revere the Book of Psalms, intoning its contents with reverential fear. The Psalms sooth and empower the soul. And they stir and temper the passions. For sheer existential value, Any Given Day echoes the Davidian classic. Patti Tana is a classicist—profoundly witty and provocative in addressing life’s every offering, from the fleeting to its gravest of challenges.I had the pleasure of seeing Tana perform in New York. A Professor Emerita of English at Nassau Community College (SUNY); she is impressive—the consummate artist with an engaging oratorical presence. Poetic readings demand that much. But words in themselves can stand alone—imaginatively emotive and inspirational when cleverly used. Like the master builder who creates an enviable edifice, Tana, throughout this endeavour, has weaved literary magic.Any Given Day is prayerfully philosophical. A chronicle of life with its many vicissitudes: pleasures, joys, sorrows, and pain—and written with the polished ease of a seasoned poet. Tana manages to extract dialogue and life from the seemingly inconsequential, even delivering images of impassioned eroticism with soothing control.Here, spontaneity has its own structure:“I become water when you dive into me the way a bird dives into the sea I become water.”And in In Waves Wash High, she writes:
“I rock inside your boat gently, then hard as waves wash high around us.
”There is wit…and humour too.
“To love a dog is to know love is messy
Jumps on you with muddy paws
Slips you the tongue
While licking your face
Hides brave with birds
Hides from thunder
Hears all, smells all, never tells.”
Any Given Day is divided into sections, one of which is called Chai, the Hebrew word for life. Based on gematria (Hebrew numerology) that ascribes good fortune to the number 18, Tana aptly offers 18 poems, with each, 18 lines in length. This is where Tana soars. A tribute to her deceased mother, its message is unequivocal: Selfless devotion and gratitude toward loved ones—now debilitated and helpless. It is craftily construed and a testament to Tana’s ambassadorial composure amid the pangs of imminent separation and loss.
In On Call, she mulls: “It’s hard this dying. Her moans are a new sound in our home. I gave her a bell, but she calls “Patti!” And I come. Even in my sleep. Even in her sleep.”
When the inevitable comes,
Tana responds. In Stark Beauty she writes:
“After she labored to leave her body
My mother’s face was composed in stark beauty.
Cheekbones defined her heart-shaped face, pink skin smooth, lips moist,
Eyelids gently closed in rest.
I thought she was alive.
And in Vessel, we read:
“When only the vessel was left clean and full of light
I took her face in my hands and kissed her cheeks
Her lips rose at both sides and mine rose too to mirror her satisfaction at a life well lived...”
Betwixt the subliminal tone are images—raw and earthy. And throughout, they lend an instructive additive to the Mosaic Law—Honour thy parents.
In essence, this homage transcends the human narrative and explores life’s deeper mysteries. But whatever life offers, Tana accepts graciously—never resisting the dynamism of its ebb and flow. She yearns without overindulgence, and may have well found the key to authentic living—without laboring effusively. Life is ever rich and infinite—even in the face of human vulnerability.
In so many ways, Any Given Day is a triumph over fear, insularity and psychic imprisonment. Any given time, or day—for that matter—life is worthy of celebration—unreservedly.
With inimitable style, Tana delivers the best of existentialism with eloquent clarity. Markedly ingenious and resourceful, Any Given Day beckons us—in diverse ways—to find meaning and value in all our experiences. Like the pan tuner—ear to instrument—listening for that tonal range, Tana, in understanding her readers, nudges them—ever so subtly—toward greater awareness and self-discovery.
Any Given Day
Author: Patti Tana, 2011
Ratings:**** Highly recommended
Whittie Publications, Inc