Stephanie M. Wytovich
Into the Forest and All the Way Through: A Review
With everything that’s been happening in 2020, I’ve had a bit of an atypical reading year so far. That’s not to say that I haven’t been reading horror like usual, but I have found myself learning more toward nonfiction and memoir a bit more than usual, especially when it comes to preparing for classes, building courses, educating myself about the world and other people’s experiences, etc. However, one aspect of my reading habits that hasn’t changed has been my connection to and appetite for poetry.
Now I’ve read some truly stellar poetry so far this year, and I’m happy to add Cynthia Pelayo’s collection Into the Forest and All the Way Through to my list.
For readers of mystery and true crime, this is a heartbreaking but important read as it gives voice to the missing and the murdered, the lost and the afraid. By no means is this collection an easy read, but Pelayo approaches the subject matter with compassion, honesty, and an urgency that begs people to wake up, to speak out, and to continue to have hard conversations with their children and loved ones. Something else that I really appreciated about the time and research and care that went into this collection was the profile that she included at the end of each poem that detailed the person’s appearance, said their name, and provided the contact information for the investigating agency on their case.
I also think, on a conceptual level, if we look at this collection and its intent that it can also be read as a political cry that calls out to people to demand more from their criminal justice system because it’s no secret that it needs to do better and be more aware about the systemic issues and deaths surrounding people of color, domestic abuse, and sex trafficking in our country. As these issues continue to rise, so should our focus on them, and this needs to move beyond performative acts of social justice and instead take the shape of true partnership and allyship if we want to see real, honest change happen in order to save lives and honor those who have passed.
For that, I thank Pelayo for writing this.
Overall, this is my second experience with Pelayo’s poetry, my first being her book Poems of My Night, and once again I found myself consumed by her words and their vulnerability. She’s not someone who shies away from truth or darkness, but she’s also someone who can find moments of beauty and tenderness when it seems like all there is…is pain.
For that, she will always have a reader in me.
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.