I’m breaking a few of my own rules here. This book was not on my to read list as discussed in a previous blog. I put a hold on it at the library and it happened to be available so I went ahead and checked it out, which is breaking another rule where I’m not supposed to put things on hold while I’ve got other things to read. Oh well.
The good news is that even though I broke some rules, this book was a quick read. And by quick I mean under an hour. I finished a book, then by the time my husband came back into the living room I finished another one. Aren’t short books refreshing?
Earlier this year when I decided to diversify this year’s reading portfolio, I thought about how long it had been since I sat down and read a poem. I think I was a sophomore in college, and we were reading Wordsworth or something. So really, I don’t think I’d ever sat down and read a poem of my own volition.
Which is a crime for someone claiming to be so in love with literature. I mean, I read all variety of fiction genres, plays, and tons of nonfiction. So why am I excluding an entire category of literature from my repertoire? Because I had no idea where to start.
I’d definitely never read any modern poetry so I decided to start there. But I don’t know any good modern poets. I STILL don’t even after researching. Eventually I looked at the Goodreads award winner for last year’s poetry category and decided to go with that one.
the princess saves herself in this one is a really interesting poetry collection. Okay, we get that it’s interesting, but why? I feel like Lovelace is really baring her soul in this collection. She addresses her own demons like an uncaring mother, abusive boyfriend, her sister’s suicide, and how she eventually overcame them to “save herself.” I found quite a few of her poems incredibly moving or very inspirational. I think the way she describes finding solitude in books and stories speaks to me as someone who does the very same.
I do have a few problems with the collection as a whole though, primarily that the whole is not equal to the sum of its parts. As in, seeing the forest for the trees is less rewarding than just appreciating each tree. Man, that was a stretch. I feel like I’ve met my metaphor quota for today, so thank you for that.
My first issue is with the organization of the work. There are four sections: the princess, the damsel, the queen, and you. Although I really appreciate the fairy tale/story theme she’s got going here, I feel like the poems don’t fit well into the respective categories. I mean really this thing is just all over the place.
First, the princess. As you can probably guess, this deals with her childhood, mainly her mother. It seems like her mother is abusive and neglectful. Lovelace does pretty well here sticking to the theme of this part, but then I also feel like the flow is a bit all over the place. Maybe I’m a stickler or something, but I found it hard to follow when she jumped from this subject, back to her mother, to books, then mother, then another mother, then something else. I feel like we could have more easily observed her relationship with her mom develop if they’d been sequential, but that is almost certainly not a popular opinion.
The rest of the work gets extremely wonk. In the damsel, we see her not only being a damsel but also working through her problems in a very undamsel like way. There are poems in other sections that would have fit better here, and poems here that would have fit better in another section.
Ironically enough, even though I heard all about her mother in a dozen or so poems, I literally cannot tell you how she feels. In the first section, she seems to have a very rocky relationship with her, but in later poems she is struggling with her death and acts like they are great friends. I don’t get it, but maybe it’s not for me to understand. I am not sure, but the reader is left extremely confused.
One of the biggest issues I have with this book is the mixed themes. I think she wanted this collection to be one thing and it became another. It’s very obvious that there is some very strong feminism in her poems. Not needing to be saved, working out your problems on your own, the connection she has with other women, etc. A lot of her poems are very empowering for women readers.
However, at the end of this collection she is not saving herself. The entire queen section is literally about her meeting a significant other (which I am assuming is male but it doesn’t matter) who helped her through all of her pain, who is making her life so much better. That completely contradicts her title because this new person in her life absolutely saved her. If you’re going to write a collection of poems about saving yourself, why on earth would you round out the work with so many codependent themes? I get a very romantic YA ending from it, which is a huge let down and a disservice to the young women reading these poems that NEED to hear that they don’t need anyone else to be happy.
All that to say, I actually really did like it. I mean, if I don’t rip something apart on my blog then that means I didn’t find any other merit in it, and I definitely enjoyed the princess saves herself in this one. I just think some revising, restructuring, and theme work would make it that much better, especially from a women’s empowerment type of perspective.