Adventures lead a magic trail to poetic life
SAYVILLE—The international adventures imbedded in Patricia Faith Polak’s life read like a riveting novel. Take the time she and historian husband Emil were driving in dictator Ceausescu’s Romania, a research trip to the Black Sea coast to witness where the poet Ovid was exiled, and were pulled over by military police after safely passing an agonizingly slow driver. Two nasty men in uniform, a misunderstanding, shouting, pulled guns and poof! Off to jail. Patricia is driven separately in a military car to an influential woman who speaks a language she knows, Italian, to negotiate their plight. The incident ends after money is donated to the police.
Trust us. This is a very abbreviated version. And that’s just one story.
Interestingly, Polak’s literary pull wasn’t novels; it was poetry. “Manhattan Melody,” a collection of 50 poems she’s written highlighting the culture and serendipity of city life, has just debuted via Archway Publishing. The poems tease out newspaper headlines in a coffee shop in “Photomontage: Bleeker Street,” discussions about the great diva Maria Callas during a Metropolitan Opera gala dress circle break in “Vincero,” and a very funny daydream, imagining a romantic knight in shining armor (and who couldn’t use one) during a high tea in “Reverie.”
There are 50 of them, and if you like Manhattan – and who doesn’t – the book is a great armchair sweep of the city you can pick up and enjoy.
So how did now Sayville resident Polak, with her interesting life, come to pen poetry?
“In a way, it has to do with my travels,” she explained. “It started in the 1980s when we spent time in East Germany. You couldn’t bring literature in. Everything, especially American novels, were considered suspicious before the wall came down.” (The Berlin Wall, built in 1961, divided East and West Germany. Its purpose was to discourage Westerners, physically and ideologically, from undermining the socialist state. It was opened up in 1989.) “But one thing I could get in was a book of poetry. I took such delight in them because I could savor them. I’m not the type who has the memory to recite passages by Virgil, for example, but I can remember individual passages of certain poets and they sustain me.”
Those she treasured helped recall scenes she captures like a crisp photograph in “Manhattan Melody.” She and Emil lived in Manhattan for 30 years and the 50 poems are among many she’s accumulated.
“I chose to make a book out of New York poems because it was cohesive,” she said. “It’s synaptic as well, and covers a lot of aspects of New York.”
Her resume is astounding; she’s worked for Train, Cabot & Associates, an investment banking firm, as assistant for the venerable Francis Cabot himself, handling money transactions for wealthy clients, among other things. She went on to other jobs, helped by her connection to Cabot even after he retired, and was an assistant to B. Gerald Cantor of Cantor Fitzgerald, for his art collection, then eventually wound up typing shipping forms. When she pointed out that Kuwait was spelled wrong, which the company she worked for had mistakenly been labeling as Kuweit, it was that ‘uh-oh, we did wrong, but she pointed it out and we don’t like that’ thing. Polak decided to quit and took poetry classes at the 92nd Street Y in 2002 and was encouraged by her teachers. She has an M.A. in writing (2012) and an M.F.A. (2014) from Manhattanville College, Purchase, N.Y.
(A former debutante with the Regina Assemblies, Polak needs a book written about her life.)
Polak’s poems have been published in “Poet Lure,” Lullwater Review, South Carolina Review, and Southern Humanities Review. Her poem “Ferries” is in the Ellis Island Museum collection. “Absent War, Absent Conflict” was included to be read and broadcast at a peace festival in Nicosia, Cyprus. Her memberships include the National Organization of Italian American Women, Academy of American Poets, Italian American Writers Association and Italian American Studies Association.
A wow review has already come in. American poet and fiction writer Joel Allegretti wrote: “With an exuberance that recalls Whitman and in language that’s in turn as elegant as Bergdorf Goodman and as down to earth as the corner bodega, Polak has composed a suite of love songs to an exhilarating, exhausting and mystifying 24-hour carnival that entices the wannabes, the never-will-bes and the already-ises. …Polak announces in one poem, ‘when you’ve/debuted in New York, you’re launched.’ You got that right, Patricia.”
Not one to stay static, Polak is forging forward with a Sayville adult education class in the fall, “Sonnets Not Snapshots.” She’s mulling a second poetry book, “Some Temptations.”
Knowing Polak’s determination, another poetry book is on its way.
Patricia Faith Polak’s book “Manhattan Melody” can be ordered from Amazon.com.
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