|Hanging on for Dear Life
||“In a volume dedicated to his father, Thom Tammaro goes over familial territory where smoke stacks stand like trees in the steel town where he was raised. It is about the human relationship between father and son, their working-class roots, the catechisms and holy history of one’s childhood. If poetry can be seen as enablement, this collection holds up the meaning of experience, imagery, and travels that make hallways where you swear you see the words live. The book is the steady logging of details that are our breath. Hold on to these poems for the dear life of your humanity. Here the poem and prose-poem master sings with seeming ease.”
—Diane Glancy, Author of Pushing the Bear: A Novel of the Trail of Tears and Stone Heart: A Novel of Sacajawea
“Tammaro’s poems are class acts of reliving, rejoicing, and remembering the spectacle of the mundane, the everyday matter that we all know and too often ignore in the rush of moving forward. In the sweep of a prose poem and the slap of a lyric, his meditations on life, family, work, love, and death help us all to let go of the real and hold on to the spiritual. It’s rare to have your own memory so touched by the writing of another.”
—Fred Gardaphe, author of Leaving Little Italy: Essaying Italian American Culture and Italian Signs, American Streets: The Evolution of Italian American Narrative.
”Thom Tammaro’s poetry reawakens the souls of landscape and our private identities. Before we know it, his poems bring these worlds together, until we are alive within a larger experience.
—Ray Gonzalez, author of The Hawk Temple at Tierra Grande, Turtle Pictures, and No One Out There is Looking for Us: Prose Poems by 24 American Poets.
When the Italians Came to My Home Town
|This collection reflects Tammaro’s Italian heritage and Catholic upbringing in western Pennsylvania. It is divided into three sections: the first, a selection of poems and prose-poems about Tammaro’s youth; the last, a selection of poetry from his adulthood; and in the middle, a factual account of the history of Italian immigration to Pennsylvania’s steel valley.
Among the poems’ recurring topics is religion, from images of Tammaro’s Catholic grade school to “Walking to My Office on Easter Sunday Morning.” Also frequently appearing in the poems are warm and insightful views into his family—from the first two poems in the collection to the later series which depict the father-son relationship. An Italian aura pervades the book, of course, and in the title essay Tammaro explores his ethnic identity by mapping out its history in western Pennsylvania.
“Words come to mind—poignant, moving, powerful, memorable—but this book is even more. Its poems are narratives that move to the core of the complex problems of faith. ‘A hope sustained by hunger’ is one of my favorite lines. Tammaro is unforgettable in tracing the heart of Italian emigrants to the Pennsylvania steel towns and back. In looking for transcendence, Tammaro finds it in his words which illuminate the ‘holy factory workers.’ How heart-rendering to hear the beautiful music from that part of America. There’s something here we all need to hear.”—Diane Glancy