If it’s been too long since you’ve held one over your mates, you need ‘The Princess Saves Herself in This One,’ so you can whip your hair off your face, gaze into the distance, and whisper: “I’ve been reading a lot of poetry of late…”
In all seriousness, Amanda Lovelace’s short, tight, and twisty book is a great introduction to modern, free-verse poetry.
Let’s begin with the enticing title and the cover. Who knew bold simplicity could be so effective? The book was voted Goodreads Best Poetry 2016 by ten times more people than had reviewed it on their website. I believe the title and cover can take a sizeable chunk of the credit. Fortunately, the contents, which continue the theme of simplicity, are engaging as well.
Lovelace uses shape poetry, ample white space, and approachable lowercase text to tell a story of terror, trauma, and recovery. Soft childhood hopes are smashed by abuse through provocative motion words. The impact of parental neglect is clear and heavy, and her expose on modern forms of bullying left me reeling. All in all, it’s a powerful and not always pleasant ride.
Lovelace continues to avoid traditional devices, like rhyme and alliteration, and instead uses stark alignment of text and regular line-breaks. Most techniques work well in conjuring mood and controlling pace; others can feel a little overdone or somewhat stale. But she never fails to write accessible poetry. Poetry that is empowering and relatable.
Some of the best parts are when Lovelace leaves struck-out words on the page. She tells as much in the visible omissions as she does with her replacement words.
The end is satisfying and holds up the initial promise: our narrator really does save herself in the end. Read it for that reason alone.