Jennifer Burd’s newest poetry collection explores the many ways we deal with loss.
After writing one full-length collection of poems, Body and Echo (2010) and a chapbook, Receiving the Shore (2016), Michigan native and award-winning poet Jennifer Burd gives her readers a powerful look at wildlife as a healing agent in her latest full-length collection from Cherry Grove Collections, Day’s Late Blue (2017). With almost fifty poems subdivided into four separate sections, this breathtaking collection shows us both how alluring and ugly life can be. As humans, we are naturally wired to depend on others for our happiness. While this is a fact, we must ask ourselves: what will happen if these others leave unexpectedly:
Times in life
beloved leaves –
or time’s fold –
and your bones even lighter
where you settle into the greenery,
admiring the way day lays down
its scarves upon the river.
(“Evenings by the River”)
Interested in both loss and growth, Burd shows us how life goes on after losing a loved one. We learn that things come and go, but we can always grow from what we lose by cherishing the environment that surrounds us.
Burd seizes the beauty of nature that can heal a broken soul through the use of strong imagery. An example of this is when she brings us into a beautifully hazy day observing nature in “Saturday Morning, Alone at Last”:
I feel tired
as late summer, drawn, golden as my tea
watching the birds
in their quick-numbered
moves, who seem to know
exactly what to do
as they make short work
of the downcast sunflowers.
Even though the speaker is drained of energy, she admires nature, watching the animals that work hard for their own survival and how they somehow know exactly what they need to do. The imagery in these first two stanzas immediately sets up the poem’s tone and relates back to the theme of loss. The enjambment here also leaves the reader hanging from line to line. This is seen in lines four and five: “watching the birds / in their quick-numbered / moves.” Burd leaves a phrase on the edge for the reader’s contemplation while also keeping them focused on the poem.
A few poems in this collection refer to the deteriorating health of the speaker’s mother and father, found in poems such as “Migration,” where the speaker is caring for her own mother. This poem shows us how heartbreaking it can be to suffer the death a loved one:
Today I lost count
of how many times she asked
what day it was and whether
she’d eaten breakfast.
We paid her bills,
filled the pill boxes, crossed
the calendar’s blank squares
Not only is it traumatic to suffer a loved one’s death, but these two stanzas convey a feeling that it is even worse when it is slow and painful. Throughout the poem, the speaker’s mother’s memory worsens. Sometimes it is not just us that lose them, but that they slowly lose us, too.
Day’s Late Blue by Jennifer Burd holds many heartbreaking moments in its poems as this particular collection focuses around the idea of loss. Through the use of imagery, enjambment, and theme, this full-length collection will have the reader turning the page for more. My favorite is “September Song” because of the beautiful imagery and transition of seasons. The following gorgeous lines reiterate the book’s title in a satisfying and hopeful closing look at the unforeseeable future:
And you and I still,
and still changing, seeing this autumn through.
How near the stars at season’s close
in day’s late blue.
Assistant poetry editor Taylor Worsham is a senior in the Creative Writing program at Lake Superior State University. Her work has appeared in Snowdrifts; last spring, she was the 2018 recipient of the Stellanova Osborn Poetry Scholarship. Taylor currently resides in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan.