Title: The Princess Saves Herself in This One
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Page Count: 199
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Notable Notables: Free verse poetry, Feminism
Recommended Readers: Women especially, but men should read this, too, honestly
I’ve done it; I’ve finally read The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace. You might remember that I actually started my journey with Lovelace’s poetry via an ARC of The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One, continuing with The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One. Yeah, I kinda did this whole thing backwards, but I’m happy to at last experience where Lovelace’s journey of finding her voice through poetry started, even though it wasn’t as strong as the others.
But that’s a good thing in this case. Lovelace grows in her poetry technique, depth, presentation, and subject matter as the Women Are Some Kind of Magic trilogy goes on. In fact, if I hadn’t fallen so in love with The Witch Doesn’t Burn in this One and been so similarly impressed with The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One, then I might have rated this collection higher. While I kept in mind that this was the first round and that I read these out of impact order, I still feel what I feel about Lovelace’s poetry here, and reason that—no matter what the timing may be—poetry will always be personal.
The book starts with Lovelace’s dedication to Harry Potter, a tribute that might seem dated to some but which I appreciated for the same reason Lovelace did. How many of us took strength and solace from the Boy Who Lived to survive and tell our own stories? How many of us have been inspired by a world of magic and a lightning-shaped scar?
As with the others, this collection is divided into four parts: princess, damsel, queen, and (curiously) you.
Part one—Princess—focuses on childhood, particularly the dreams and fancies you have as children that are often violently or traumatically shed as you grow towards adulthood and society begins to negatively influence you. Lovelace’s poetry in this section is obviously deeply personal, reflecting on the emotional and verbal abuse she received from her mother growing up as well as her experiences with sexual assault, eating disorders, and self-harm. Despite their personal nature, many people—women especially—can relate to these subject matters. I found myself nodding along to one on page 25:
i woke up
with my favorite
wizard boy sheets
i begged would
it was like
my body was
no longer my own
– not much has changed since then.
There’s a lot I could say about the “girls mature faster than boys” sentiment, much of it scathingly negative. However, I will say that there is certainly a turning point girls experience from childhood into adolescence that is markedly more shocking and gut-punching than anything boys experience, and that is their period.
Whether your mother or other responsible parent warns you about it or not, that first sight of blood on your clothes, of pain in your abdomen or lower back, of feeling dirty or like you’re dying is a moment of your life that you never forget as a young girl. It’s an irrefutable change that there’s no stopping every month, a sign that you’re changing in ways you never thought were going to be real as a child. And with that blood and these changes comes this expectation of “womanhood” and—worse—of becoming the world’s sexual object that absolutely no nine-to-thirteen-year-old should ever have to carry. Yet carry it, so many of us did and do, and just because that’s “the way it is” doesn’t mean we can’t point out its wrongness, can’t mourn our childhoods, can’t fight for something better for the young girls who follow us.
Part two—Damsel—switches gears to Lovelace’s young adulthood, speaking towards a bad romantic and sexual relationship she fell victim to, evoking her fear of fire and getting burned both physically and metaphorically.
She also reveals that her mother died of cancer, and shortly before her death, she requested her ashes to be spread over the ocean so she could finally go back home, beginning another favorite Lovelace metaphor: the mermaid.
I really loved that both fire/burning and the mermaid imagery were found at the start in The Princess Saves Herself in This One because they are both symbols that anchor this series together. I love when things carry over organically like this.
As for the subject matter of the section itself, I was hit hard with “what it really means to lose your innocence” on page 65 because it talks about how shatterproof you think your parents are until they aren’t. I am fortunate enough to still have both parents; my father is actually a lung cancer survivor, and when we first found out he had it, we were all shaken and terrified. Ever since then, I’ve been acutely aware of my parents’ mortality and can only pray I’ll have them with me for many more years to come.
Lovelace likewise lost one of her sisters before their mother’s death, who was seemingly the picture of health but just as sick, with Lovelace not knowing if the cause was suicide or not. I cannot imagine this pain, topped with the weight of not knowing the truth behind it. I will say that suicide has directly affected me; I’ve lost childhood friends and schoolmates to it. I’ve cried at the losses of Robin Williams and Chester Bennington. It’s something that always leaves you with a feeling of “I could’ve done more” but never knowing exactly what or how much was needed to save a life.
I’ve also worked a job I felt so hopeless about that suicidal thoughts starting creeping up inside my head where they never had before. If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts of any kind, please take this as a sign to reach out to a professional for help, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, and also let in your loved ones to help you. I promise they want to, even if the attempts seem clumsy at first. The world won’t be better without you; it’ll be so much darker.
The rest of this Damsel section I admittedly got very little out of. Lovelace sinks into a lot of cynicism and faithlessness that grated on me, particularly as her poems began to revere her mother in death when earlier she was the woman who was a villain to Lovelace in life. This is a trap I’ve seen many people fall into, and while I understand that parent-child relationships will always be complicated, I’m firmly in the camp of “cut off those who continuously hurt you without remorse, even family.” Lovelace does admit that she mourns her mother’s death while also feeling freed by it, and that’s a good thing to confess; I just hope she managed to do a quick adjustment in her personal life to keep viewing her mother as just another person at fault versus being a faultless saint.
Otherwise, I felt this section was mostly wallowing in misery rather than encouraging self-rescue and didn’t much care for it.
Next comes part 3—Queen—and I’ll be honest: I expected so much more out of this section. This combined with Damsel is where this collection took the biggest rating hits for me. Queen especially became a little repetitive with poems about her one true love and coffee, but I also finally got more poems about writing and words. Aside from a poem reminding folks that women aren’t put on this earth just to reproduce for you (pg. 147), I really don’t have much to say here other than the self-rescuing finally comes into play.
Instead, part 4—You—is the part that truly makes this collection shine. This was the section where I finally started sitting up in my seat and felt the energy and empowerment that marks the rest of this poetry series as something special. It’s an entreatment to the reader to nourish their words and pour out their own story, and there’s plenty of takeaways here that make wading through the first three sections worth it. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say “wading through.” Maybe I should say, “getting to know the poet and her own journey” because that is equally as important.
This part is where you’ll run into poems with the most variety in regards to subject matter, meaning there’s a lot to interpret, ponder, and accept as your own. For instance, there’s a heartbreaking poem dedicated to Hurricane Sandy survivors, one standing up for fellow millennials and the world they’re struggling through, one praising women of all kinds, and one hoping sapphic lesbians will have happy endings for their stories for once, instead of being murdered. You’ll also find poems dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement and remembering the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting that are powerful and deserve to be experienced by readers firsthand.
I quickly found my favorite poem of the collection on page 171:
if you are still
trying to find
is sylvia there
the way with
all her own?
& what about
or is death
– i’ll be there with matches.
Aside from the fact that I respect if not outright love these women, the fact that this poem opens and closes with Emily Dickinson in particular makes it incredibly special for me. The rest, I can’t really explain. As a woman, I just feel all these words all the way down, deep into my bones; this is truly a Shared Experience between women that all of us at one time or another feel, and as someone who is also a writer trying to find her voice and who she is, always, I just get it. I truly do. I’m actually blinking back tears right now because yeah… This one hit and hit good.
So is The Princess Saves Herself in This One worth the read? Absolutely. I daresay you’ll even like it better than I did. I just know what’s coming, so let me just say, prepare yourself. The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One is next, and it’s my favorite. You’re gonna need somewhere safe to store your rage.