Elizabeth A. Savage is a professor of English at Fairmont State University, where she also serves as poetry editor for Kestrel: A Journal of Literature & Art. The journal was founded in 1993 and has earned an excellent international reputation as a competitive and skillfully designed literary magazine. Three Cities will feature more about the journal in a future issue.
Her newest book, “Idylliad,” published in March 2015 by Furniture Press Books, a small press in Baltimore, is a collection of poems about West Virginia, encountered through homeric tropes.
The Ruth Ann Musick Library will host a book signing by Savage at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, in the Library’s TabLab, located on the middle floor of the Library. Copies of the book will be available for purchase ($12.00) and signing after the event. Furniture Press has published an earlier volume of Savage’s poems, Grammar, in 2012, (also available for $12.00) as well as a chapbook now in its second printing, Jane & Paige, or Sister Goose, Twenty-Four Women & Girls.
Advance orders are being accepted for the book through http://furniturepressbooks.com/books/savageidylliad/, and samples of the poems also can be viewed there.
“I wanted to write in order to see West Virginia more clearly.” Elizabeth was born and raised in Richmond, VA, and then received her undergraduate degree at James Madison, followed by a masters at Boston College. While working on her Ph.D. at Duquesne, she first met people who worked at Fairmont State. They said many positive things about FSU, its intimacy, and its teaching atmosphere. So although her first post-doctoral teaching position was with Virginia Commonwealth University, she actively pursued a position at Fairmont State. She’s now lived here over a decade and used the “Idylliad” project to slow down and write very deliberately about West Virginia through the seasons of at least one year. “My intention in writing about West Virginia in “Idylliad” was, in part, trying to remember what it looked like when I first moved here—to see where I was and see it without daily familiarity as well. The writing was a tool for discovery—finding out what I don’t know about where I am. Additionally, this book was my first venture into homeric tropes, like similes and double similes found in the Iliad. It was part of a challenge to myself because I had avoided traditional literary tropes in poems.”
Although her teaching always comes first, Elizabeth has managed a long list of publications. She is a published poet and journal contributor, with considerable research and speaking engagement activity. Elizabeth has previously published a chapbook and a book. Additionally, Verse literary journal, known for publishing experimental poetry, is featuring a 26-poem dossier she wrote this past fall.
But what sets Elizabeth Savage apart from others? Elizabeth spends a lot of energy promoting other poets and helping them get published. Inspired by her personal experience of hoping for but rarely receiving feedback as an aspiring poet, she has taken the initiative to spend time forming personal relationships with writers, reviewing their work, and helping them prepare for publication. Elizabeth enjoys this interaction immensely, and states, “It also helps me be a better poetry editor. All the editors at Kestrel want to give writers more than just pages in our journal.”
Another outstanding attribute Elizabeth exhibits is the pride she takes in her students. She explained that many of her students are very concerned about the future of West Virginia and think about ways they can personally continue to make it a better place to live. “If my students are any indication, there’s cause for optimism in West Virginia. They are aware of exploitation in their hometowns. Even as freshmen, many of them are thinking about ways they might work with corporations to change things once they leave school and get into the workplace.”
The poem “Territory vs Property” is one of the poems from “Idylliad”—the title joins “idyll” (meaning “little picture,” usually of an idealized pastoral scene) and Homer’s brutal war poem the Iliad. Following the poem is a paragraph explaining what Elizabeth was thinking about as she penned this poem.
Territory vs Property
“Let me recite what history teaches. History teaches.” – Gertrude Stein
East rails into west
where safe belies spent
& the whitetail leaps
over whitewashed fence
& whitewater streams
like a darkened spring
down the desolate face of June
as bodies run in place
floating hats, flowing boots
(First published in Weave Magazine, a bicoastal literary organization and print publication)
“When I wrote this poem, I was thinking about the way my neighbors and I talk to each other about the space we share, how we vary in our references to the land that we officially own. Sometimes, there seems to be ways we tacitly agree about what land belongs to us individually and what belongs to all of us who live on this tiny road a lot of locals don’t even know is here. In terms of real estate taxes, each of us pays for a specific acreage, a lot of which we can’t see because it’s so wooded, but the way we think of property lines is pretty blurry. The lack of possessiveness, I think, makes us neighbors, but our respect for each other’s boundaries, at other times, does too. Considering this interesting phenomenon among people, including and especially me, who tend to be intensely private, I thought about West Virginia’s inception as a legal and political boundary, but one that came from a similar collective imagining that continues. I also thought about all the wildlife that knows nothing about property lines or place boundaries–a deer eating your irises doesn’t know ‘my yard’ from shinola. They are always ‘here,’ wherever they are.”
This article originally appeared on Dec. 23, 2014, in Three Cities, A Guide to Clarksburg, Fairmont, Morgantown and the Surrounding Area and is posted here with permission. For more information about Three Cities, visit http://threecitieswv.com/.