Saudade for a Breaking Heart by Kristen Lucia Renzi


How does one sing a song both happy and sad, one that longs and mourns even as it celebrates and loves? Saudade for a Breaking Heart takes its cue from the Portuguese concept of saudade to explore this space in an attempt to lyrically render the complexities of family, sexuality, gender, partnership, and love in the contemporary world.


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 86
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: June, 2022
  • ISBN: 978-1-953252-48-7


I’ve almost never read a book of poems that so closely and honestly tussles with oneself, wonders with oneself, listens to the deep internal argument by which the lyric is made, as Renzi’s Saudade for a Breaking Heart.  Nor have I often read such wondering—heart-broken, witness to horror and sweetness both, puzzled, lovestruck, funny, repulsed, frightened, fleshy, stained, in the supermarket, in the bed, in the park, in the book, in the body’s deepest rooms—so precisely rendered, or crafted, or spoken, or sung as music.  Goddamn this is a beautiful book. —Ross Gay

Kristen Renzi’s Saudade for a Breaking Heart keens and begs to be savored.  The poems in this collection are deeply domestic and mammalian; Renzi writes poems for human animals and for animal rights, for our shared Anthropocene.  She delights in the body (and the bawdy), giving voice to the stories of women and non-human animals.  These saudades  cry for lost loves, and they powerfully situate the loss of self and memory from a loved one’s Alzheimer’s against the nostalgia for all of our earlier lives: “I long for a me / before.”  Saudade for a Breaking Heart is a bittersweet twenty-first century feminist love song. —Robin Silbergleid

The Portuguese term saudade, deeper than mere nostalgia or melancholy, is rendered in these poems by Kristen Renzi as a soft sadomasochism (“white light of lovers’ tongues/ arched and bloodied bridge bodies”), singing a “wounded/ duck lament” for which the narrator awaits balm (“I expect you’ve brought bandaids”). But since pain as pang is often a basic, if simple, formula of poetry, what’s the fun in disentangling fact from fiction? Even so, “Night now stutters,/ and it’s difficult to make/ this shit up for a poem/ about loss, about/ longing, about the mind/ marking endings long after/ they’ve come.” Bittersweet from start to finish, the poems refuse to detach regret from deliverance (“Yet sometimes, I stare/ at cuts from these stone’s edges,/ and I long for a me before/ I gave up my space:/ someone all spit and sand again”), refuse to sever childhood (“Some days, I lack the stomach /for children…”) from the casual brutalities of our general human footprint. Flipping the script on speciesism a la Planet of the Apes, Renzi cannot help but relish in revenge per fish (“It strikes me I wish/ the fish had killed the boy.”) and, more humorously, fowl (“The more garish your gash, the better you’ll fare.”). And though Renzi would have us believe that only chickens prefer the ungainliness of “cricket feet [and] ugly knee,” the loopy ups-and-downs of sex and love cannot be gainsaid. Truth told, happiness beckons just around every enjambed corner of these poems. And while their narrators often find themselves in a quandary for having made a heaven of hell, the “wounded and the underdog…” just might find, per Poe, surcease of sorrow: “head straight to the dirtiest, / what’s been kept there for last,/ where hides the hardest, most/ stubborn of stains: please/ go there, I say, and say you can stand it,/ take shame on your shoulders, I’ll not/ clean here again. say it’s done/ to your eyes, and ready for visitors, even/ lodgers to rest, stay awhile, move in.” —Tyrone Williams

After the elaborate theological play of The God Games & Other Voices, Kristen Renzi gives us a far more intimate book of poems, suffused with saudade, that elusive, enigmatic, inescapable sense of loss, longing, homesickness and brooding fatality. Erotically charged, these poems often turn (as in a volta) in unexpected, even shocking ways; their seemingly loose, conversational style disguises a tense inner structure that is felt more than understood. They linger long after being read. “Let the bodies alone sing. / Let them lean in sweaty delight.” Listen to their songs. —Norman Finkelstein



I am eating myself
into bankruptcy, each bit
of day clawing more into
my beaked mouth.

Marlon Brando wore brute
well, backing down animals
at will with white undershirt,
those goring eyes.

what is he—and you—that make
me pigeon, ever cowing
from the violet light? or gulp,
not coo, when near your heat?

consume this weight again.
fill my caged chest and hide
the veins in neck protruding.
blanch and calm my small heart

coursing in meat. your
palm. my cobbled thefts
of speech. out and back all:
the color of desire.

what god leaves lips cracked and swinging
as I walk out the door?


Saudade for a Breaking Heart by Kirsten Lucia Renzi Kirsten Lucia RenziKristen Lucia Renzi is an Associate Professor of English at Xavier University, where she teaches and researches in the areas of Transatlantic 19th-20th Century Literature, Gender/Race/Class, and Embodiment. She is the author of poetry monograph The God Games and Other Voices (Main Street Rag Press, 2017) and scholarly monograph An Ethic of Innocence: Pragmatism, Modernity, and Women’s Choice Not to Know (SUNY Press, 2019). She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, her two daughters, and their canine and feline companions.

Additional information

Weight 6.2 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in