Relics of Lust includes both fresh poems for new and loyal readers of Lynne Savitt as well as selections from her previous collections. Working through this particular collection, I found myself weeding out the stronger poems. There are several sets of themed poems, likely parts of larger sets in the books they were originally published in, that I found myself glossing over. I would like to think that they did not appeal to me as a reader because the poems included in this book were missing parts of the whole and therefore just did not satisfy.
Savitt’s unique voice certainly remains consistent throughout the collection, and I am convinced that if I read a random poem without the author’s name listed under the title, I could easily match the style and voice to Savitt. More often than not, the title of the poem flows into the first line and creates an uninterrupted read, a style becoming harder to find. This is not attributed to Savitt’s inability to think up a title; often I found myself doubling back to restart reading the poems because the titles are so strong on their own. Another interesting point to consider is that Savitt began publishing these poems in the 1970’s. Reading about sex and affairs and lovers going to jail seems like typical topics in our current age; however when Savitt began publishing, I doubt the language she uses was common dinner conversation.
One of the best ways to explain Savitt’s writing is to use a verse from her poem “New York City 2003.” It considers youth at an age when someone the narrator cares for is dying:
how do we honor the people
we love them hard & to the bone
& now & like there’s no tomorrow
& if there is we try again & then
regrets are a bill we won’t have
to pay we live to love another day
Throughout the book, a constant theme is love and sex, and the difference between them. She can only love as much as she can love someone and cannot be asked for anymore. She doesn’t want to know a man’s name because then she will have to remember it and think of him after they sleep together. Yet from these lines, it is clear that she does truly love; it is just in her own way. And don’t we all love in our own ways after all?
Some poems are less deep, less to think about, and invoke such laughter you forget yourself in public. One of my favorite poems is “High School Sex,” dated 1963:
. . . you couldn’t
kiss a boy more than twice
or you’d get pregnant cramps
always in my right hand from
jerking them off in church
parking lot while they moaned
oh, god! oh, god! oh, god!
Sure, you can read into the irony a bit that the girl is fooling around at church where she should be praying and god-fearing; however, it’s so easy to just sit back and appreciate the poetry. I enjoyed some of the new poetry but would likely rather have the original books the other poems came from. Although, if you are already a Lynne Savitt fan, there are some new Mrs. Lattrice poems for you to enjoy!