Student reviews Zach Savich poetry


Shippensburg University’s English Department recently welcomed Zach Savich on board as an assistant professor. Savich is a published poetry author, creative non-fiction and a chapbook. He received his bachelor’s of arts degree from the University of Washington and his master’s of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Additionally, he has lived and taught in France, Italy, New Zealand, and across the United States.

Savich’s second book of poetry “Annulments” won the Colorado Prize for Poetry. His first book, “Full Catastrophe Living” won the 2008 Iowa Poetry Prize.

Savich’s inspiration for “Annulments” came from several sources. Poets Rosmarie Waldrop, Carl Phillips, and the lyricism of singers like Sam Cooke were a few mentioned in an interview with Savich. He created lyricism with a “cut-to-the-chorus, cry-in-your-coffee-with-splendor” feeling.

The poems in “Annulments” could easily fit into the confessional coffee dates I had with my best friend where I desperately needed to get something off my chest; that relieving, weight-lifted feeling I get after finally releasing bottled up feelings and emotions.

Waldrop’s contemporary style, including lots of personal narrative, was certainly similar to Savich’s deeply personal experience based poetry. Phillips is also well known for emotional and spiritual poetry. Savich expresses emotion so well with his words and imagery, it is easy to relate to his poetry and feelings.

“Annulments” is 65 pages of poems that echoes the book’s one word title. The contemporary poetry is thought provoking and emotional. Several poems are designated specifically to someone, some include italicized parts to signify that they are sung rather than read. Other poems take advantage of enjambed lines or end suddenly. However, every poem includes authentic emotion. Savich says he hopes they are “honest poems” and have a hushed, yet thrilling feel of intimacy.

“Many of the poems try to capture the particular sense of love at a threshold, before it becomes a story,” Savich said.

“The Mountains Overhead” is a hard to miss poem in Savich’s sophomore book. It takes up Pages 4-39 of the 65-page book and consists of 113 brief sections. Many of the sections are italicized, giving the sung phrases emphasis and significance. The poem expresses an emotional struggle, the result of a difficult separation.

Savich wrote “have fun, we said for goodbye” implying maybe separating would not be so difficult or final if no one really said goodbye.

“Be how you were, be how you were” appears more than once in the poem. It really draws attention to the plea for someone to be how he or she was before, so that everything could go back to how it was before.

“Tell me a secret I don’t know I have” is a reminder of how things were before. The connection and closeness of the relationship before things changed. This small alteration of italicizing font not only catches the reader’s attention but may make him or her wonder how much more of an impact words could have if they were sung instead of spoken.

The word “mountain” in the title of the poem is significant. Readers may also notice snow commonly mentioned within poems in the book.

These words have significant meaning to Savich. The poet moved to Iowa where “mountains and water determine buildings and roads.”

In a world of nonstop construction of buildings and homes, mountains still halt or deter the process. They are large, natural and powerful determiners of what will or will not happen next. He has also admitted a fascination with snow, saying “It is skin.”

Snow really is like a layer of skin, temporarily covering everything that will eventually fade away to reveal something deeper beneath it.

Much shorter is “Reversible Sun,” which compares the extension of a helping hand to the way the heart conditions emotion. Both relatively active concepts are quickly followed by “[do you know what birdlime is?]” This sticky substance, used to trap small birds, seems to imply freezing or trapping the ideal assistance of extending a hand or handling emotions.

I can certainly identify with the feeling of comfort that comes with someone helping me through something difficult and wanting to always have that assistance when I experience struggle. Or when my heart has finally regained composure and control after something has shocked my emotional system. Savich follows his birdlime question and ends with “leans back as when saying grace or after taking up a hand of cards.” It is as if Savich is leaning back while patiently waiting for my response.

An aspect of many of the poems in “Annulments” is a sudden or unexpected finish. I did not find this leaving me unsatisfied at all. If anything, it tied the title of the book even more into the poems inside it. Almost anyone can relate to the mental process of annulment, where negative or painful ideas are terminated from the mind. The quick finish to some poems subtly hints towards erasing unpleasant memories.

I think any fan of poetry will be able to appreciate “Annulments.” Savich’s poetry touches on emotions that almost everyone has experienced. It is easy to compare your own relationships to his and it might be difficult not to reevaluate them after reading this book.


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