By Sam Sax


“Lustrum” by Sam Sax is a compelling poem that delves into complex themes using rich poetic techniques. Sam Sax is known for his vivid and expressive poetry that often explores themes of identity, history, and personal introspection. As a genre, “Lustrum” fits within the modern poetic tradition, characterized by its free verse structure and poignant imagery. The poem’s title itself hints at a period of five years, traditionally a time of purification in ancient Rome, setting a tone of reflection and transition. 📖🕰️

Meaning of Lustrum

Opening Section
The beginning of “Lustrum” sets the emotional landscape of the poem, often hinting at introspection and the passage of time. Sax might start with imagery that is both personal and expansive, setting the stage for a narrative that delves deeply into personal history and collective memory.

Mid Section
In the middle portions of the poem, Sax likely builds on the initial themes, introducing contradictions and complexities. Here, the use of vivid imagery and personal anecdotes could serve to highlight the struggles and revelations associated with the poet’s thematic exploration.

Concluding Section
The conclusion of “Lustrum” might bring a resolution or further questioning, reflecting on the themes introduced throughout the poem. This section could encapsulate the essence of reflection or transition, often leaving the reader with lingering thoughts or unresolved emotions.

Throughout these sections, verses such as “time folds over itself, a thin membrane of then and now,” could serve as key elements, illustrating the poet’s use of language and metaphor to bridge personal experiences with broader existential questions.

In-depth Analysis

Stanza 1 —

  • Theme: Often sets the emotional tone of the poem, addressing themes of time and personal history.
  • Literary Techniques: Look for the use of enjambment to create a sense of continuity, reflecting the unending nature of time.
  • Syntax and Diction: The choice of words might be reflective and somber, setting up the contemplative mood of the poem.

Stanza 2 —

  • Figurative Language: Metaphors and similes enrich this section, making abstract concepts tangible. For example, personal emotions might be compared to natural elements, illustrating their vast and uncontrollable nature.
  • Impact: These devices amplify the emotional resonance of the poem, helping readers connect deeply with the poet’s internal world.

Stanza 3 —

  • Rhythm and Flow: This stanza may vary the pace, using shorter lines to convey urgency or disruption, reflecting thematic shifts in the poem.
  • Contribution: The rhythm could mirror the emotional or thematic peaks of the poem, aligning the form with the content.

Stanza 4 —

  • Imagery: Rich imagery in this stanza could serve to evoke specific emotions or settings, such as decay or renewal, which tie back to the central themes of time and transformation.
  • Thematic Elements: The imagery not only paints a vivid picture but also supports the poem’s deeper meanings, often encapsulating complex emotional landscapes in simple scenes.

Stanza 5 —

  • Closing Techniques: The final stanza might circle back to the beginning, perhaps mirroring initial themes or images, to bring a sense of closure or cyclical narrative.
  • Effectiveness: Analyze how the ending ties the poem’s themes together or leaves the reader with a poignant question or image, enhancing the poem’s lingering impact on the reader.

Each stanza, rich with its own unique elements, contributes to the overarching narrative and emotional journey of the poem, making “Lustrum” a complex and layered work that invites multiple readings and interpretations.

Poetic Devices used in Lustrum

Device NameExamples
Metaphor“A ship lost at sea, sails full of wind yet going nowhere”
Simile“Hearts beat like drums in a silent parade”
Personification“The morning yawns with the weight of the past”
Alliteration“Silent sounds and solemn shadows”
Assonance“The slow glow of morning”
Consonance“Last gasp slipping past lips”
Onomatopoeia“The clock ticks time away”
Hyperbole“A lifetime passed in moments”
Irony“The healer’s hand, trembling more than the wounded”
Symbolism“The crow on the windowsill, an omen of change”
MetonymyThe crown of years” (representing time or age)
Oxymoron“Loud silence of the room”
Paradox“The future is a mirror of the past”
Anaphora“We remember, we regret, we remake…” (repetition at the start of lines)
Epistrophe“…of time, of tears, of tomorrow” (repetition at the end of lines)

These devices, meticulously chosen and expertly placed, enhance the thematic depth and emotional resonance of the poem, showcasing Sax’s ability to wield language with precision and profound effect.

Lustrum – FAQs

Q: What is the main theme of ‘Lustrum’ by Sam Sax?
A: The main theme revolves around the passage of time and personal transformation, often using historical and biographical elements.

Q: How does Sam Sax utilize structure in ‘Lustrum’?
A: Sax employs a loose structure with varying line lengths and rhythms to mimic the fluidity of time and memory.

Q: What poetic devices are most prominent in ‘Lustrum’?
A: Metaphors, symbolism, and personification are key devices Sax uses to deepen the thematic impact of the poem.

Lustrum Study Guide

“Under the shadow of the old elm tree,
leaves whisper the language of the lost.”

List all the poetic devices used in the verse provided above.


  • Imagery: “shadow of the old elm tree,” “leaves whisper”
  • Personification: “leaves whisper”
  • Symbolism: “old elm tree” as a symbol of past or endurance