The lyric poems in Daye Phillippo’s radiant debut collection Thunderhead explore faith, motherhood, family, and community. As the author has put it, she has lived her life “backwards,” first raising a large family, then going back to school, and only now seeing her work find its way into print.
Rooted in Midwestern farm country near where she grew up, these place-based poems reflect a spiritual practice: searching for—and expecting to find—the sacred in the ordinary world of trees and weeds and seasons.
Here you will find red-rooted pigweed and red-wing blackbirds, cornfields, woods, streams, gardens, and the creatures (human and otherwise) who inhabit them, in addition to a wide night sky filled with stars, and the ancient underground river, the Teays, that throbs and flows beneath them all.
During a thunderstorm, Phillippo wonders: “what if, / in choosing words to ponder we choose / our countenance, too?” The poems in this collection offer us not only a compelling self-portrait, but a mirror in which we may better see who we are and might become.
Daye Phillippo’s lovely sharp-eyed Thunderhead begins with cold and ache from the Ice Age via the River Teays, miles beneath her farmhouse, tapped to drink and to cleanse. But this poet is haunted throughout by the unseen and the clear: seasons, work, family, the mysteries of the natural world here, then not, like the young deer that “leaps through the wall of green as we all hope to pass, one verdant world/into the next, suddenly and with grace.”
Marianne Boruch, author of The Anti-Grief
I do not think I have before encountered poems that catch more exactly, and on the wing, the quiet glory of the ordinary—poems endowed with genuine affection, no-nonsense attention, and a lived-in faith. Her cadenced lines breathe with the seasons, even at night carry the “fragrance of sun and breeze,” as if they, like “the fibers of line-dried sheets…had memorized the day.” And the day remembered, in these poems of Daye Phillippo, is twice blessed.
Eleanor Wilner, author of Before Our Eyes: New and Selected Poems, 1975–2017
Daye Phillipo’s richly meditative collection, Thunderhead, takes inspiration from the Book of Job: “the earth will instruct you.” These are poems of the heartland…where an ancient river, forced underground by glaciers, enriches the lives of those above—the way family stories continually surface with their pains and solaces, or the way in one hollowing / hallowing moment Eternity passes through empty arms, “though nobody knows but you.” Thunderhead gives us poem after poem of abiding presence, of the kind one finds in paintings by Winslow Homer, or like the light inside the word “Radiance” the poet allows so receptively to thunder through her head.
Daniel Tobin, author of From Nothing
These poems speak to the heart, the land, the place, and God in it all. I disappear in them, as I feel like the writer does too. They reawaken me to the endearing Mystery that holds us all, well, together.
Terry Minchow-Proffitt, pastor and poet
These poems are like reading the waters from ancient rivers. In Thunderhead, Phillippo orders the seasons and encounters “radiance” from the ordinary fabric of human life.
Diane Glancy, author of Island of the Innocent, A Consideration of the Book of Job