Ivy Ireland Reviews Alice Savona’s Self ie

By | 22 February 2021

This book of poems rewards the process of rereading – it requires at times a close attention, even work, to see what the poems reveal. Sometimes the relentless repetition surprised and other times, it simply confused. I found myself wondering which path was the correct one to follow; I searched for the road less travelled only to find all paths had been raked over incessantly. Yet this is how the mind works. Self ie is many things, but it is also the map of consciousness (or is it the unconscious) – the disjointed chronology of moments, a game of spaces, necessitating focus on the gaps. The entire collection is an extended play on words. Even the gap in the title itself feels terribly important, meaningful and exceptional. And it is. Or is it simply meant to be taken as ironic, nothing more? This sense of over-clarifying until clarity itself becomes muddied is, after all, intentional, indeed every single word of Self ie seems to have been placed with such complete focus and fixation. This collection is rewarding because it reveals, through emphasis and word play and repetition, a type of rewording beyond words.

The poems in Self ie sometimes seem to undergo some sort of process of dissolution: to dissociate (and this word is found all over the place throughout in the collection), to refer back to themselves, and then perhaps find some sort of catharsis, i.e. (ha!), a bringing together of intention coupled with reflection. ‘Scaffold’ evokes a sense of this:

3. coupling +
     light +
     cracks =

The Self appears to be, after all, just one slice of the psyche-pie. As the poet points out, ‘There are interactional stressors to consider.’

The poems in Self ie feel like they have worked hard in order to own their own selves and perhaps should be allowed to speak for themselves here. So here’s a longer excerpt from the titular poem (though, as ‘self ie’ is expressed many times in the collection, perhaps in a sense many poems could be the titular one), ‘Self ie’, in which we see the process of composition unfolding:

Squinting to see if she’s cockled the commas
At night: he writes: or details a seam
Eyes of her whites too close again
You don’t love people so they’ll do what you want

At night: she writes: or details her dream
All lines rush as the drafts draw breath
You don’t love people so you’ll do what they want
The self ie of his poem

Self ie is, in a way, exactly what the title claims: a captured image. Purely intentional, revealed at an odd angle, perhaps off-centre, too close for comfort, potentially at times awkward in its exposé. Engaging with Savona’s collection is best when we are inside the realisation that we belong to an age of narcissism, absorption in self-awareness, social media, pop psychology, Netflix, meta everything, perceived and performed image and, most of all, immense effort to escape from the dire realities of contemporary existence. After all, claims ‘HowToBeHappyWhenYou’reDead’:

an angel reverses

your public soul                                                |  like life-heist

sift prudence & pour

The poems of Self ie aren’t comfortable, easy chair, cocktail-hour poems. They are deconstructionist in theory, they are artworks in style, thy are perhaps the product of an extended session of free association post dream analysis. And they demand your undivided attention. As the poem ‘Mother’ demands, ‘please be moved’. And we are.

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