Applauding Life: Poetry and Prose of an Octogenarian, by 85-year-old surgeon Barry S. Savits, provides a wide-ranging look back on his adventurous life.
This hefty, oversized volume contains poems interspersed with prose vignettes, some fictional, along with abstract doodles by Savits. The author expresses the desire to pass on his life stories to his grandchildren, and, throughout, conveys an appreciation for the variety of experiences he has had.
The content touches on topics such as the author’s childhood, bisexuality, memories (“Life can be like a lending library/ Where we can borrow thoughts or/ Moments from dusty shelves…”), the ephemeral nature of life, his Jewish faith, and even earthworms and lima beans.
One memorable prose piece, “Those Three Months,” nonjudgmentally chronicles experiences from his surgical residency in Manhattan in an office next to a nightclub: “I made friends with hustlers, my lady friends, junkies and a few cops. I was offered freebies of all kinds more than once. I was labeled Nite Doc by my office clientele on 45th street.” Similarly, many poems tell stories from Savits’ past, such as “He And Me,” which relays the speaker’s tumultuous relationship with an orphan from South America that he adopted when the child was 18.
Savits offers occasional metaphors and vivid imagery, such as:” Light leaks through spaces/ Between green bowels and colored buds.” More often, though, the poems are largely expository, as in the aforementioned “He And Me”: “He came to me from South America,/ A bruised, orphaned preteens [sic] lad/ Needing intensive love and/ Deep understanding.” Or this, from “Outside The Window”: “Outside the window/ Lays a world of wonderment-/ An almost infinite green space…” The use of more poetic devices would have enhanced the work and its emotional resonance.
Even so, Applauding Life offers an intriguing picture of a man who has spent his life helping and healing others. Readers will find it an interesting journey, while perhaps wishing for more striking craft.
Also available as an ebook.