Poem Review – “Where I Work” by Shutta Crum
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Poem Review – “Where I Work” by Shutta Crum

- edited by: KaitlynG

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Shutta Crum’s poetry has been published since the 1970’s. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Typehouse, Stone Boat, Acumen, Mom Egg Review, Calyx, Blue Unicorn and Boulevard. Her chapbook, When You Get Here won a Royal Palm Literary Award. Her second collection,The Way to the River came out in 2022. A Pushcart nominee, she is, also, the author of thirteen picture books and three novels for younger readers, including, THUNDER BOOMER1 (Clarion HMH) a Smithsonian Magazine and an American Library Association Notable Book of the Year. For more information or to subscribe to her newsletter The Wordsmith’s Playground: www.shutta.com.

So many thoughts can come to a person when reading. Finding little details or looking at the broader picture; trying to find the author’s meaning in the words, versus feeling your personal heartstrings tug at where the writing pulls you in. Scholars and simple readers alike can pour over an author’s work in different ways, studying themes and structure in their own ways. Poems, to me, are some of the easiest forms of writing that can be pulled apart like this. Yet I know it can also be a struggle to do so as well, either getting confused by language, or the true message the author intended flying over your head. I believe then, while it’s understandable to want to know every detail and facet of what the author meant, that you can read poems as how they speak to you specifically. How you feel; what the writing means to you; how you read it in your mind. So, with these many poems I’ve been given to read over, I wanted to express this way of thinking over them. Going author by author, I want to connect the dots of what this tiny sample of all their works means to me.

    And so, to me, Shutta Crum’s works that are featured here give me a distinctive feeling: Yearning. The poems I read all seem to look at the past in some way, and the writer’s desire for or remembrance of the feelings that took place there. Whether it’s the struggle between love and loss, simply looking over past objects with fondness, or giving character to nature yearning for rest. Each poem in the set I read feels so different if you read them separately, but reading them all side-by-side made them feel like one person.

“Where I Work”, meanwhile, paints the yearning for the past as we live in the present. The writer explains all of the items in their workspace that reflects both their currently busy life, and the simpler, more entertaining times before then. Smiles in school photos, hidden yet visible memories of an achievement in a past winter, and things sprinkled around that are like their pastimes of reading or items meant to liven up the office. It’s all things they can reflect upon, but not stuff they can truly engage with anymore. In a sense, adulthood and careers took away simple joys and past happiness, reflected in these lines, “On a shelf, an origami box—empty. / No bit of down awaiting a broody. / No disembodied song to name. / No micro-turbulence to unfold.”. Listing things that aren’t there; listing things the writer can’t do anymore or haven’t been a part of their life for years. This emptiness and yearning for those times and those activities, now only memories stuck in where the writer works.

Reading these poems, even when I maybe look too deep into them or maybe put too much thought into a few words, has been very fun. Finding meanings, either the writer’s or my own, is an exciting way to exercise my brain and appreciate the writing that’s been given to me. “A Gathering of Poets 2”, the collection of poems that was given to me, may hopefully become a series I keep reviewing and pouring my thoughts into for the rest of my time here at First Coast Life, along with any other blogs I can do. My only hope is that these make you yearn for more, either of this series, or for more of these amazing works of art.



Over there is a book I haven’t read.

And another with worn pages

feathered cottony, Medieval Lives

women working, as do I.

On a shelf, an origami box—empty.

No bit of down awaiting a broody.

No disembodied song to name.

No micro-turbulence to unfold.

Above, school photos perch

in the frames of other pictures.

A bevy of smiles nested

into busy lives.

From a vase water tracks

beneath the clock’s heartbeat

down to the teardrop eye

roosted in a peacock’s plume—

dusty cerulean and indigo.

And half-hidden,

a bent wing…

…that hard winter

we flew down the hill and made it

all the way across the frozen pond.

Shutta Crum

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