Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Digging Dinosaur Dignity in Ardortown by Lynn Savitt

(Lynn Savitt)

Digging Dinosaur Dignity in Ardortown Lynn Savitt (Myshkin Press, Long Island, NY)

“Kvetchmeister” is the term that continually came to mind as I read the seamless knit of jubilation and kvetching, self-mockery and celebration which is the fabric of Lynn Savitt’s ruefully lyrical poems.

It’s a complex knit, struck in her first poem – “The 5,298th Poet’s Poem For A 60th Birthday” - which never flags through all her stanzas, and, surprisingly, never tires the reader. At least not that special reader who commits to standing beside the poet and spading up the layers of irony which cover the dignified strata of a hard-lived life, the life we all inherit by doing what comes naturally and abiding with the results.

“My children settled with spouses/houses near the ocean what/more could a mother want/surf sounds of contentment” is the way the second stanza of Lynn’s above-titled poem sounds the ambivalent contentment which comes to the mother whose brood is all settled and settled well enough, thank you.

In the penultimate stanza we hear the succinctly worded regret which comes with the territory of breeding and raising a new generation by and through the expense our own limited, human vitality: “wake up & smell melting/decades of lovers lost/to cancer & cross country/moves younger pussy/memory burns me to/them & them to me”.

The language is that informal, rushed argot we might pin to our refrigerator door with a magnet as we hurry out to shop or pick up the kids from sports and school. It’s the language of daily life, crowded with details of the next task to accomplish, but also with that poignant longing for relationships and sentiments never quite finished no matter how long our day or our life stretches.

The winning note in Lynn’s triumphs and kvetching is that her longing for the ultimate , which she embraces so ardently in her crowded, enjambed lines, is also experienced complexly, as if she is at once the lone human being experiencing her brief, na├»ve ardors and also the distanced eye of the poet stretching the ego’s perspective to include both the long leveling hallway of time as well as a crowd of “others”.

In “Gloomy Sunday” this complex perspective is illustrated in the first two stanzas: “a couple celebrates a wedding/anniversary in the rain at beach/gingham tablecloth damp with/wine & love limp as linguine”

This ramble of unpunctuated, but crisply detailed longing, could well be the poet’s own, as she celebrates yet another anniversary in a mature career of anniversaries, this one in not ideal weather and with a possible double-entendre in the “love limp as linguine” . The implicit suggestion of maybe an umbrella and a dose of Viagra hangs comically over this “damp” scene.

But just as her regret could soup into the maudlin, the poet’s eye takes a bitter, bracing turn to the war-torn “gaza strip” and a housewife prodded by war into “packing/hope and photos in pale gray boxes”. Then, in the third stanza a couple who could be the poet’s or anyone’s parents experience the rigors of age together: “an elderly husband & wife try/tying shoelaces together arthritic/fingers can’t lace sneakers loose/ memory trips them up like ropes”.

In both her individual poems as well as in this collection, the poet doesn’t move away from her own hardships to those of others in order to forget, but to enrich her own perspective and return to the personal with a deeper and more humane stance – a Kvetchmeister who holds her “bouquet” close to her heart while giving away single blooms to every passing stranger, including the reader, in need.

J. C. Foritano

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