Traveling Light is a series of Pastan’s personal reflections on life. Each poem is like a snapshot; it shows you a picture of a specific moment in time. Some moments are deeply rooted in the present, while others scale backward into the past. Traveling Light is divided into six sections. The titles for each section, such as “Time & Weather,” invite the reader into poetry focused on change in various environments. We see and react to the world differently based on the environment we are in. Throughout these poems Pastan explores these changes: in temperature, physical settings, life stages: marriage, birth, death.

Part I begins with The Burglary, an incident of stolen silverware, due to negligence:

While forks and spoons are divided
from all purpose
patterns are lost like friezes after centuries of rain
and every knife is robbed
of its cutting edge

I loved how many of the poems are broken up, as if each stanza were a separate thought. It gave me so much to think about as I read the poems. Pastan moves fluidly through her experiences, displaying no particular favor for one or another, as if reminiscing quietly over tea. This creates both a calming effect on the mind and an atmosphere that makes it easy to relate to her poems, in which the ordinary occurs. I could point to many poems and say, “This happened to me, too!” In Three Perfect Days Pastan describes her feelings on a rather imperfect flight, an event many people have experienced:

I would settle now for just one perfect day
anywhere at all a day without
mosquitoes, or traffic, or newspapers
with their headlines.
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Throughout the collection there are moments of disdain, grief, hope, and joy. Compassion finds its way in with Q and A (my personal favorite), where a student asks a question about Emily Dickinson that surprises Pastan:

Surprise like love
can catch
our better selves unawares
“I’ve visited her house,” I said.
“I may have met her in my dreams.

Traveling Light honors the simple and plain moments by gleaning the wisdom that comes from them, as in The Still Point, where Pastan finds contentment in the here-and-now:

the wind moving
from past to futures blows
itself out
and I lie still
in the simple perfection
of the present.

Pastan truly shows what it means to establish intimacy between author and reader. Traveling Light does not read like narrative, plainly telling the reader step-by-step what is going on, but like new revelations in each experience remembered. As the reader, I was shown many things that I had seen before in my own life, in a way that made me think about them differently. I saw things from a new perspective.

The poems in Traveling Light breathe life into solitary experiences and serve as a reminder to reflect on all that happens in life, and to look forward to all that will come. I am new to Pastan’s work, however, Traveling Light  makes me optimistic about exploring her past and present works. Recommended for introverts and lovers of solitude alike.  – Brandy Burgess

 Also available by Linda Pastan: A Perfect Circle of Sun, On the Way to the Zoo, Aspects of Eve, The Five Stages of Grief, Selected Poems, Setting the Table, Waiting for My Life, PM/AM: New and Selected Poems, A Fraction of Darkness, The Imperfect Paradise, Heroes in Disguise, An Early Afterlife, Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968–1998, The Last Uncle: Poems, Queen of a Rainy Country: Poems.

 

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