The Tailor’s Three Sons & Other New York Poems
The Tailor’s Three Sons & Other New York Poems, the Mslexia magazine prize-winning pamphlet published by Seren, is the fruit of author Mara Bergman’s rich memories of her childhood on Long Island and Manhattan. Now living in the UK, she looks back and assembles an appealing cast of characters for us: a grandmother who lives with precarious memories of war-torn Europe in a ‘railroad apartment’ where passing trains make ‘a whole room shake’; a cousin Sharon who makes a weekly pilgrimage to a nail salon, the bottles of nail varnish, ‘lined up like sweets’. There is the ghost of an uncle, spotted in the likeness of a man on the London-Hastings train. We meet an ‘Englishman in New York’ and experience, along with the author, ‘East 13th Street or How I Met My Husband’.
The title poem is inspired by the author’s visit to the Tenement Museum in New York’s Lower East Side, where Bergman vividly imagines the lives of immigrants when many thousands docked in ships at Ellis Island and the Lower East Side was ‘the most crowded place on the planet’. She envisions the lives of the tailor’s three sons she learns about during a museum tour: ‘afternoons they’d elbow through the teeming streets’, come home to a bowl of soup and share a single sofa for a bed. These poems are written with a great deal of warmth and empathy and with a quietly deceptive casual tone. We can see the author, as a small ‘Girl with a Pen’ entranced by her reading a biography of Charlotte Brontë.
Mara Bergman says: 'I am fascinated by people and their stories. Having lived in England for many years, I often think, What if… and have tried, in my writing, somehow to meld my life in England with the one I left in New York. Here are poems about people, the process of work and art, and distance, in time and place.’