Arts & Culture / Mosaic / April 29, 2010

Paying bills, focusing on lighter sides of life

“If it’s not the party at the end of the world, I’d rather not go,” said Mary Crockett-Hill. At the Caxton Club event on Friday, this middle-aged mother presented her “theory of everything.” The title of her collection takes me back to the few physics classes I’ve had. As a history major, she has my attention.

She describes her poems as “ripples of strings” connected by our “desire to have strings.” She connects her experience to her poetry without shame. As a new observer to the world of poetry, I see that some of the best minds are tortured souls, but Crockett-Hill is radiant and refreshing because she asks the big questions to approach an answer she understands through her own experience.

I sensed that members preferred the poetry from her younger years when she “had a week to write each one.”

Junior Casey Patrick criticized Crockett-Hill’s current pieces.

“From her presentation, she seems to take her craft too lightly. Her earlier poetry is better because she had more time to spend on it and that shows,” she said.

Crockett-Hill admitted she had turned to writing teen fiction to pay the bills and that lowering her standards “is not a bad thing.” The tension surrounding reconciliation of academia with teen fiction seemed to be on the minds of many present.

Crockett-Hill addressed hot topics in her poetry. Child molestation, AIDS and questioning how to trust are three strings in a series of good vibrations. She asked, “How can we trust each other in a world where we do horrible things to one other?”

She addressed the reality of words and life –– what is real or not –– by answering the “big questions” through absurd imagery.

She was able to tease herself, too. She says her epiphany to write teen fiction came to her during communion one Sunday. The feeling I got was that she spoke slander by admitting such a reality as needing money.

As a mother, she smiled after reading poetry from her younger years and said, “I try to give it what it deserves,” and admitted that it is “weird” to read her younger self.

Crockett-Hill’s concurrent narratives showed promising signs of life. She counseled that poetry is close to writing an essay.

“You have an idea,” she said, “and then you back it up with evidence and anecdotes.”

As far as I’m concerned, Mary Crockett-Hill justifies her life and stories by seeking answers to life’s big questions. This may not seem like a fantastic claim, but who says the party at the end of the world is anything out of the ordinary?

Laura Jorgenson

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