“When I Was A Girl Like Me: An Interview With Poet Margaret Bazzell-Crocker” By Chase Dimock

 

When I Was A Girl Like Me:

An Interview With Poet Margaret Bazzell-Crocker

By Chase Dimock

When Margaret Bazzell-Crocker told me she would be publishing her first collection of poetry in 20 years, I expected her to be revelation to anyone who picked up her book. As a good friend of hers, I knew readers would be equal parts charmed and provoked by her perspective. Her personality certainly radiates from the pages: funny, empathetic, authentic, unrepentantly unorthodox, and insightful.

What I didn’t expect was for the book to be a revelation to me. When you’ve known someone for a while, you tend to think you’ve got them figured out, even when your base assumption is that they are amazing and capable of anything. I learned a lot about Margaret: about her relationship with anger and disillusionment, how these feelings came from her upbringing and her dissatisfaction with the status of women in the world of her youth, and how the Margaret I met in her 40s is a product of decades of harnessing and channeling this into an energy that can create and nurture.

After finishing the book, I wondered if I had been daft and dense to have missed some of this in my friend. But, what I realized while interviewing Margaret is that it is through the language of poetry that so much of this experience can be expressed and heard. When I Was a Girl Like Me is the annotated guide to the life of Margaret Bazzell-Crocker. The following interview is just as much about wanting to better understand a friend as it is about wanting to share her with the world.

Chase Dimock: Your book contains a short introduction in which you address your anger. You write, “People are afraid of anger and especially women are afraid to be angry” and that you are now “comfortable” with your anger because you can “aim it with laser precision.” Why did you decide to begin by addressing your history of dealing with anger and what role does this anger play in your poetry?

Margaret Bazzell-Crocker: I think I wrote first about anger because it’s the emotion I’ve wrestled with most, and I’ve been fascinated with the idea that it seems to be especially shocking when a woman is angry. I remember feeling the same way when I got old enough for my mother to make me start wearing shirts. Why did I have to go around in shirts? None of the boys or men in our neighborhood did! Our household wasn’t really great when I was growing up and anger seemed to be the go-to feeling for all of us, although we always expressed it in gender-specific ways. The girls were allowed to sulk and the boys were allowed to hit.

I think a big, powerful moment growing up for me was when I discovered I had the power to express my anger in more definite ways, and I’m sad to say that I wasn’t, at first, very responsible with this power. I hit, I threw things, I did things I was sorry for afterwards, and I wouldn’t go through that experience again if I could help it. However, I think the message I got when I was younger, and that women continue to get now, was that a girl or woman could feel things in a corner, but they’d better not sit at the table with it. I’m not completely comfortable sitting at the table today, but I’ll do it, by God. As far as how anger affects my poetry, I think it affects some of it, of course. I hope readers will see that this collection begins with anger, but then talks about all kinds of emotions and situations. The collection gets past my anger, but still acknowledges it as a great source of power. Good and bad.

 

Chase Dimock: Let’s talk about where this anger and your attempt to harness and manage it surface in your poems. A few months ago, we published the second poem in the book, “The Art of Acquiescence,” in As It Ought to Be Magazine. In it you write:

To be a woman
in this world
is to bend and curve and slip around its corners
like a snake in the river.

You explain that a woman must “contort” herself. How do you feel this compulsory contortion and acquiescence feeds into the anger you feel? How does this connect your personal experience with the women of the world who you broadly address in the first two lines?

Margaret Bazzell-Crocker: First of all, I like the words you use about the anger in my poetry, because I think they are correct: “harness,” and, “manage.” That is what I tried so hard to do in the past whenever I felt angry. I would add another that’s in “The Art of Acquiescence” poem itself: “meet.” I did try to harness my anger because it went far into a dangerous field when I found I had the power to wield it, and as I’ve said, I regret that. But, then I found I over-corrected, because I was trying to be accommodating to everyone but me. There is still a tendency now to please everyone around me and be resentful of it. The more I matured and was around different women, the more I found their anger and resentment, even for the people they loved sometimes, matched my own. The more I still found this tendency in many of us, to turn the art of acquiescence into a line, drawn in battle. And the more determined I was to erase, or at least redefine, this line in myself. That’s why I would add the word “meet.” In the poem, the snake meets all obstacles. I love that little snake!

I hope, with this collection of poetry, readers see, not that I am finally at Hallmark Channel peace with my anger, but that I am working to remove the battle from it, to negotiate a peace-accord, maybe with myself. I have come of age, I guess, in my willingness to see it as a part of me, but no longer a defining part of me. I would never advise anyone else to do the same. My poem is my journey, and no one else’s. I wrote it because I feel my journey with anger and with other emotions that stand in the way of growth, change, or even just a happy, still life may resonate with others, too.

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“Me, and the Hecate” By Margaret Crocker

 

ME,
AND THE HECATE

Ariadne,
in the mechanical bed,
bound by stuffed mittens,
breathing by beeping hose,
her pulse rate, heart rate, brain rhythms and lung capacities
a constellation around us in the darkened room.
There are stars, Ariadne,
Look!

Ariadne,
your webs.

Ariadne,
your unrequited love.

You were our lives,
Ariadne,
and your webs our ties with you,
you the weaver,
you the hanged man,
you the Hecate,
the maid, mother and crone all in one
a white, fragile web in the dark
while machines give you breath and life
in force,
as you would have none on your own.

Ariadne,
what do you weave there,
where no one can see?

You wake hoarse,
confused,
and tangled in all your knitting.
You see me
and don’t remember.
But I will always remember these days, my sisters.

When Ariadne began to sew,
and faltered.

 

About the Author: Margaret Crocker is an artist, writer, wife, mother, daughter, sister and thief. She collects stray animals and has this weird fantasy of being on The Great British Baking Show, despite the fact she uses a bread machine. She knows little but proclaims much. There is much we don’t know about her.

 

More By Margaret Crocker

“My Joints Hurt and Other Fascinating Topics of Conversation”

“The Art of Acquiescence”

“Earth, Air, and Lynda Carter”

“Mental Health Portraits”

 

Image Credit: “Ariadne in Naxos” by Evelyn de Morgan (1877)

“My Joints Hurt And Other Fascinating Topics Of Conversation” By Margaret Crocker

 

MY JOINTS HURT
AND OTHER FASCINATING TOPICS OF CONVERSATION

So.

This is what it’s come to.
You
and me,
green tea
and a free association of maladies.

You cannot know how sick I am,
the pain I feel,
the woes I have.

But, hey,
here’s a dirty joke to make it better.

All laugh.
I cough.
You sweat.
We both sigh,
and limp
ever closer
to the finish line.

 

About the Author: Margaret Crocker is an artist, writer, wife, mother, daughter, sister and thief. She collects stray animals and has this weird fantasy of being on The Great British Baking Show, despite the fact she uses a bread machine. She knows little but proclaims much. There is much we don’t know about her.

 

More By Margaret Crocker

“The Art of Acquiescence”

“Earth, Air, and Lynda Carter”

“Mental Health Portraits”

 

Image Credit: “Dance of Death: The Doctor” Hans Holbein (The Cleveland Museum of Art)

 

“The Art of Acquiescence” By Margaret Crocker

 

THE ART OF ACQUIESCENCE

To be a woman
in this world
is to bend and curve and slip around its corners
like a snake in the river.

The river has always been there,
the current
and the rocky banks,
the tangle of roots,
a snapping turtle,
a stray foot
or fish just larger than you.
Your role is not to disturb, no.
Look at you!
You have no bones to do so!

All you want is a bug,
a minnow,
a stray lizard,
sunshine
and a warm rock.
But the foot is there,
the current
and the hook.
And you will contort yourself
to meet them all.

.

About the Author: Margaret Crocker is an artist, writer, wife, mother, daughter, sister and thief. She collects stray animals and has this weird fantasy of being on The Great British Baking Show, despite the fact she uses a bread machine. She knows little but proclaims much. There is much we don’t know about her.

 

More By Margaret Crocker:

Me, and the Hecate

My Joints Hurt And Other Fascinating Topics Of Conversation

Mental Health Portraits

 

Image Credit: Paula Modersohn-Becker “Die Klagender Frauen” (1902)

Earth, Air And Lynda Carter

 

Earth, Air And Lynda Carter

By Margaret Crocker

 

Earth, Air And Lynda Carter

I first remember flying.

Flying

with the ceiling’s 70’s popcorn textures
at my cheek.
I could touch it
if I’d only stretched out my hand.

I was a superhero then,
in my first moments of life and memory,
with my Wonder Woman Underoos,
Lasso of Truth
and the bad guy in the background
for seconds,
long particles of seconds,
an eternity of nanoseconds,
in Million Dollar Man slow motion,
with the Bionic Woman smiling at my shoulder.

“Forget Lee Majors,”
she whispers,
“and fuck the Army.
Let’s leave it all behind with our invisible jet.”

And then I land,

Remembering landing for the first time,
as I remember no other landings before now.
The Underoos ruck up to my armpits,
everything explodes,
the house explodes,
sound and sight explode,
the air, Lynda Carter and Lindsay Wagner are sucked from my universe,
the villain is there,
and the ultimate final twist–

That our heroine
could never fly,
after all.

.

About the Author: Margaret Crocker is an artist, writer, wife, mother, daughter, sister and thief. She collects stray animals and has this weird fantasy of being on The Great British Baking Show, despite the fact she uses a bread machine. She knows little but proclaims much. There is much we don’t know about her.

 

“Mental Health Portraits” By Margaret Crocker

.

               

MENTAL HEALTH-PORTRAIT 1

Offices are silent
and locked at night.

And bland doors upon doors
and myself,
white and nervous against the glass
broken with chickenwire.

The pads of my shoes are quiet.
The elevator’s shaky hum is quiet.
The shadows of the dining hall are quiet and long.
The dust on the carcass of a water beetle,
the saw that does not move,
the razor behind the lock,
the fingers,
stained with marker,
the fingers clenched in state blankets.

The voices
are silent
while a reflection of me
smokes in the yard.

.

MENTAL HEALTH-PORTRAIT 2

Cee Cee
smiling in the hall.
She rubs her forehead back and forth,
her fingers back and forth,
the air twisting
her knuckles back and forth,
flies rubbing.

Cee Cee
taking a shower.
Her tshirt is hung
empty on the door.

Cee Cee in line
waiting for that Red Cross tshirt,
a souvenir of another life
of outside
and pursuits she sleeps away here,
of a time she had something to give.

Cee Cee in line
with a Dixie cup of orange juice
and that crazy, crazy blood
pumping a hole through the universe,
her head
bumping softly at the wall
again
again
as she stares past the door.
A sticker, a lollipop and a smiley-face on the board,
this is what she has now.

Cee Cee
carrying a cheap comb in a paper bag.
Cee Cee watches the bored nurse
and today’s discussion
“To Cope or Not To Cope.”

That is the question.

.
About the Author: Margaret Crocker is an artist, writer, wife, mother, daughter, sister and thief. She collects stray animals and has this weird fantasy of being on The Great British Baking Show, despite the fact she uses a bread machine. She knows little but proclaims much. There is much we don’t know about her.

 

Image Credit: Portrait of Stephy Langui By Rene Magritte (1961)