Unwrapping herself and finding the heart within
The last poem in Springfield poet Siobhan Pitchford's new book, Through the Longing Daze, employs a pun in its title: "At Daze End." The poems preceding it are much concerned with the comings and goings of her days; the maze she carves out of them is one worth walking through. In fact, the poet seems to be finding her way. Mother, lover, daughter, friend: Most of us know the drill, and it isn't easy to find one's self inside the multiple roles life layers on us.
The strength of this collection is the poet's success in unwrapping herself, and we, as readers, receive her present, as well as her past and future. It interests me that she chooses to begin her book with "Reflections Cast at Midnight." This choice tells us the poet brings an ample amount of wisdom to her work. Although most of us think of midnight as the end of day, Pitchford knows it is also the beginning: "to mourn what might have been . . . anticipate what might be." And then she sets about doing both. Loss is a recurrent theme -- not the "oh, woe is me" variety but loss as lesson. The learning curve in this book is something to behold. Time and again the poet digs treasure from ash, stubbornly sounding the hopeful note above the dirge.
Pitchford's poetry is atmospheric; it surfaces from the mist. Pitchford finds inspiration in nature and sudden turns of weather, more often than not internalizing such moments. In "Ruined Silk" she laments a favorite blouse, ruined on a rainy winter's walk with her lover. But within her wish for spring's arrival we sense a longing for warmth beyond the weather.
Much of the poetry in this collection has an erotic, sensuous air. "Hot with Intermittent Breezes" shines a new light on office flirtation. Although most of the poems are written in free verse, the book includes several outstanding love sonnets. The inseparability of the lover from the self is a consistent strain, perhaps best voiced in "My Heart on Your Sleeve," in which Pitchford concludes: "The Dance I provide/is for your entertainment."
The poems have an eye for color and an appreciation of the artistic process. (The cover of the book features one of the author's paintings.) "Between the Letter and Meaning" will ring true to anyone who has ever struggled to put words on paper: "I reach for scraps of syllables/enough to form the words I want . . . but . . . my own blankness weighs heavily."
These poems are not showy. Though they present a picture of the complexity that is the modern woman, they don't claim that she can have it all, nor do they claim that she wants it. Instead, they show that a writer with a good eye can look inside her heart and make poetry of what she finds there.
Siobhan Pitchford reads selections from Through the Longing Daze at 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, at the Illini Union Bookstore in Champaign.