Through the Bones: A Review of Bruising Continents by Claudia F. Savage

Bruising Continents, by Claudia F. Savage. Spuyten Duyvil, 2017. 102 pp, poetry.

Start like this: Claudia F. Savage’s first collection of poetry, Bruising Continents (Spuyten Duyvil), is a feast for all five senses. Its ripe and tender language describes private acts of love and lust, and the rhythms of those acts echo those of the natural —

No.

Even metaphor failed us.

Try again: Bruising Continents unites the movements of bodies in sexual thrall with the movements of forests, of wild animals, and even of continents.

Late August. We watched the clouds lift from the valley
in the shape of a continent. Red welt bruising blue.
Black bones fissuring unnatural valleys. Aspens unrequited suns.

Closer. But still no.

Tell the truth: I am not a poet. I’m not even very good at analyzing poetry. When I read poetry, either the earth moves, or it doesn’t, and I can’t say how or why. I can track the qualities of a novel in five even paragraphs, each with a mini-thesis and textual proof, but I couldn’t tell you what line breaks are really for or the functional difference between a comma and a period. Except in breath, in rhythm, in the way poetry merges with my body until everything falls away but my heartbeat and the words. Claudia F. Savage has written this book for readers like me.

No, she wrote it for her lover. That much is obvious.

Later. In the stilled dark. Only your satisfied bellow 
oozes from the walls as glue. My eyes, my hands, 
wake desperate for anything resembling your body.

She wrote it for the pulse and promise of language. She wrote it to thoroughly tell a body story, in such compressed and sparking lines that I don’t know how she didn’t set my hair on fire.

While there, eat my lungs. Lick my spine pale.
Till nothing weights my vertebrae.

If you are a person for whom poetry rings through the bones rather than lying on the page like ordinary words —

If you cannot appreciate, only enjoy —

If you have ever loved someone in a small square room, skin-hot and smelling of the animal in you both, from sunup to sundown —

If you have read poetry and thought no, I want more of your blood poured into the ink —

If you have studied, and found nothing coherent to write about the way your heart quickens when one word meets another, when the space between the lines becomes breath held, when a book-length poem seems too short and yet so whole — if you have tried to bring your education, your active brain cells, to these problems and preferences — if you have failed, have only run your fingertips over the page to absorb the words in all possible senses —

If your lover has noticed the difference between the night before you read the poem and the night after —

If you believe that sky and skin, that earth and hair, that flesh and tree bark, that the rustle of pines and a moan of pleasure — these things are so inherently the same that a poet does not need to explain, more than to say

I ask you to look deeper 
at the singed trees 
along my spine

— if it’s you I describe here, then you need Claudia F. Savage’s rending, nourishing, dazzling collection of poetry in your life. In your bed. Ringing through your bones.

Even in February
every woman wants to be a feast.

Success, Ms. Savage. Your book, the body you have written, is a feast.

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