The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace, published through Createspace, is a haunting exploration of the abused woman transforming into a survivor. The succinct, powerful style follows the narrative of a young girl (potentially the author) as she experiences various tragedies throughout her life from sexual assault to the suicide of her sister and death of her mother due to cancer. Lovelace uses a lowercase, short form of related poems to express compelling thoughts on womanhood, loss, and maturity, always including a short tagline in italics to complete the thought process and elaborate on each poem’s themes. Lovelace creates a powerful commentary in her collection, and it’s important to explore her unique style, subject matter, and the strong points in her book as well as the flaws.
One of the most compelling aspects of the book is Lovelace’s unique style. She writes entirely in lowercase, a submissive and unassuming choice, almost like the words are slinking across the floor in an attempt to hide. Every one of her poems also includes a tagline in italics that serves as both a title and a closing thought. For instance, here’s the first poem of the book:
the princess i was born
a little bookmad.
i could be found stroking
the spines of my books
while i sat locked alone
inside my tower bedroom.
all the while, i hoped my books
would spill their exquisite words
over the lush green carpet
so i could collect them one by one
& savor them like
berries inside of my mouth.
–forever a collector of words
As we can see, the word “I” is lowercase and unassuming. The author uses the short form of “and,” replacing it with an ampersand instead. The speaker expresses a love of words that originated at a very young age, and the final tagline in italics offers both a summary and something of a title. We should also take a look at organization. The book is split into four parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, and you. This setup is vital to the story. The princess is young and abused, growing into a damsel wanting these boys to save her. Eventually she evolves into a queen, standing up for herself and making connections in regard to her own value. Then the last section is titled “you” and addresses other women who may be stuck in the damsel phase. The style definitely lends to a unique effect throughout.
The subject matter of the book is what makes it both haunting and empowering, however. As stated previously, the book is separated into those four parts. The princess part focuses on a young girl who loved books and was never quite given the affection she craved. The girl deals with her mother’s alcoholism, sexual assault, and anorexic tendencies. For example:
to keep my mother warm
in a house
as cold as
t h i s
-but you kept trying, didn’t you?
The poem is a hint towards her mother’s alcoholism, implying that she drank a lot. The sexual assault is what carries over to the section titled damsel, however, and is hinted at in several poems. For example:
my first kiss:
no no no.
-i will never forgive you
This poem is in the section titled “princess” implying youth and naivety. She says it’s her very first kiss that is taken from her, and it’s clearly by force. The “bruises” imply the assault went further than a kiss and was violent from the “taste of/blood” portion. The final painful truth is in the title or italicized line at the end, “i will never forgive you.” This implies that she has continued contact with the person or that the person was someone she knew. The subject matter is difficult to swallow, especially since Lovelace has developed a lovable, curious personality for her “princess.” To watch her undergo something so terrible is an immense blow, and it’s one of the reasons the book is so heart-wrenching.
Lovelace’s book isn’t perfect, though, and there are some issues. For instance, there’s a lot of tragedy in the book—to the point that it becomes overwhelming. The use of the italicized “summaries” at the end of each poem can grow tiresome at times, as well. Whether they are meant to serve as titles simply placed at the bottom or not is up for debate, but each poem has one. They are a sort of detached, outside voice commenting on the issue in each poem. Given that every poem in the collection ends this way, there are no surprises. However, there are a lot of strong points in the book. One of the most important is the section titled “you” and the uplifting poems there meant for young women going through similar issues. For instance:
s t a r d u s t
v e i n s
–women are some kind of magic
This section is full of poems with similar themes. Lovelace takes issues that affect women today such as sexual assault, low self-esteem, and emotional abuse and tries to communicate that women must speak up about these issues. She invites women to accept themselves as they are and not let men change them. The “you” section is very uplifting, and it’s by far the most enjoyable aspect of the book and very welcome after all the tragedy situated at the beginning.
To conclude, the book is a powerful and welcome addition to the poetry world; it touches on many of the issues that greatly affect women today and offers an empowering, self-sufficient take on what it means to save yourself rather than relying on someone else to do it. There are some flaws with repetition and the painful admissions in the book that seem to grapple the reader into despair, but there is a light at the end. Overall, it is a great contribution to the poetry community and a book I would highly recommend.
Featured image courtesy of Amazon.com.