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Marisa Crawford

Marisa Crawford is the author of the poetry collection The Haunted House (Switchback, 2010), and the chapbook 8th Grade Hippie Chic (Immaculate Disciples, 2013). She is founding editor of the feminist website WEIRD SISTER, and lives in Brooklyn, NY.


"This collection is about obsessions and how we are always building them, surrendering to them, or evading them. In the opening poem we learn that Bloomingdale’s, its 'brown bag' held like a bomb, are the objects of the speaker’s side-eye, tell-it-slant gaze: I saw the Bloomingdale’s out of the corner of my eye / & with the way the light was hitting it, it looked like a mirage. / Like a temple… What is really being wrestled with is love, its losses, despair, denial of that despair, learning to love one’s own body and self, and all the ways we trick ourselves into making it through the hours and days and shifts of this grinding blue world. The last couplet of the book: There was that big sign on Route Nine that said, 'Free Air.' Somebody told me, memory is a tire. Change it. Go from there."

– Natalie Diaz



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Big Brown Bag

Life Sucks, Let's Go Shopping!


Marisa Crawford’s Big Brown Bag, my copy of it, anyway, begins with a hand-written epigraph that reads “life sucks, let’s go shopping!”, emblazoned in the blue of the pen I’d just handed her.  The printed epigraph is equally telling: an excerpt from Plath’s The Bell Jar, something about discarded wardrobe items disappearing into the “dark heart of New York.”

Big Brown Bag is a little brown book that is simultaneously perfunctory and deeply profound; it paints a world in broad, plastic strokes, which yield to pure moments of bereavement, and which seem concurrently brooding and blithely consumerist: “I got the long black dress. The dress that leads to nowhere.”  Crawford’s mourning is deemed unavailing in this first line of the collection, but it provides the impetus for the poems to come, which are rife with strongly voiced juxtapositions in the vein of this first tidbit.

Goodie’s, the fictional department store where our protagonist has found employment, provides a backdrop where she can mask her devastation in the trappings of modish fashion and sticker-prices.  Ok, there aren’t sticker prices, but there is a tension between authentic feeling and the culture of buying cool shit: “I am floating toward the earrings and I am pulling toward the world.”

Crawford’s speaker is authentic in the sweetest way.  Not “sweet” like Little Bo Peep sweet, but “sweet” like things were sweet in the 90’s, when 8th graders wore Smashing Pumpkins shirts and watched The Breakfast Club as a rite of passage.  All of these things figure in the broader narrative of Big Brown Bag, as the collection is interested in the perennial MacGuffin of “growing up.”  The speaker has “grown up,” is as grown up as 30 is, and debauches in naiveté with the acumen of the poetic eye.

This is a collection that finds something like joy in the art of masking mourning in the mundanity of trend-shopping facilitation; it is an aggregate of verse-moments that recall the zenith of childhood’s ambition and carouses in its weird disaffection.  Mainly, though, it’s good.

These poems are plainly stated, sharp, and strongly voiced.  They are well-wrought, without a word misplaced, but they paint a speaker who is less sure-tongued.  The speaker happens upon a kind of insight that conflates the agony of loss with the quiet satisfaction of having replaced the vital parts.

Life sucks, let’s go shopping.  Let’s wear different blacks and ride them into the dark heart of wanton anonymity.  Pick up Marisa Crawford’s Big Brown Bag, put Gazing Grain Press’ fourth chapbook inside, and settle down for a good read.  You’ll find your sense of self negotiable, but forward motion is untenable without a degree of caprice.  “Memory is a tire.  Change it.  Go from there.”

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