Lorna Crozier is a Canadian born poet who grew up in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. As a child, Crozier was very close with her mother, but was raised by an alcoholic father. This created a lot of tension in the family as she attempted to deal with the emotional burden of not having a stable father figure. It also was the beginning of her difficulties with men, which can be seen in several of the poems that she has written over the course of her writing career.
Crozier grew up in a small town, which she later revealed created some difficult dynamics. As a child in a working poor family, she felt embarrassed to be one of the least privileged children in the town. This feeling of shame, Crozier says, was one that took several years for her to overcome, even after she had moved away from her hometown ("Life"). Crozier subsequently became a high school English teacher and school guidance counsellor before pursuing her writing career, as she had never imagined herself becoming an author. Despite her original claim that she would never write, Crozier went on to author sixteen different poetry collections; she also received the Governor General’s Award for Poetry ("Life"). She is currently working at the University of Victoria as a professor and as Chair of the Writing Department.
A significant portion of Lorna Crozier’s poetry contains mature content, as she wrote frequently about abuse and harmful relationships with men. By using writing as an outlet and a way to express personal experience, some of Crozier’s poetry frequently comes across as crass, blunt, and slightly unnerving. As a feminist, Crozier has written both poems that empower women and female victims and writing those that praise the male body. “Penis Poems” is a series of twelve poems in which a female speaker explicitly describes the male penis in an attempt to dismiss the sexualisation of the male body as she simply expresses a woman’s desire for sexual pleasure (Macdonald 3). Another one of her poems, “Fear of Snakes,” explains a sexual assault victim’s relief as she is momentarily freed from her abuser as he moves on to another victim. Poems such as these contain mature, raw content, which make Crozier appear as a poet who primarily writes about men, sex, lust, and abuse.
However, Crozier’s poem entitled “Childhood” allows readers to reminisce about treasured childhood memories and the safety that a mother provides for her children within the home. In the poem, the speaker describes what it is like living at home, emphasizing the importance of using one’s senses in order to remember what it was like. By using repetition, Crozier is able to emphasize various importance aspects of home life, and what elements provide a feeling of safety and security. In the poem, the speaker wholeheartedly trusts the mother. The child trusts that the mother has provided a safe living environment, and that she will continue to care for them. This childlike trust shown over the course of the poem shows both vulnerability and dependence on the mother.
For my project, I wrote a poem called, “She Became a Liar” which, like Crozier’s, emphasizes childlike trust and the protection of children. The poem is based on a personal experience with my youngest brother, whom I attempted to shelter from an excruciatingly difficult battle with mental illness. After developing and overcoming an addiction to self-harm, it was a difficult step to begin wearing clothes that left my scars exposed. When my brother saw my scars for the first time, I felt as though I needed to create a story, as he was too young and innocent to understand why I would harm my own body. In an attempt to protect his innocence, I lied. In Crozier’s poem, the speaker is trusting in the mother to protect them and keep them sheltered. In my poem, the child in the poem is trusting in the speaker as she reveals a story.
"She Became a Liar" by Kayla Schut
Throughout the poem, Crozier emphasizes listening. Lines such as “Listen: / the floorboards groan at your mother’s step,” and, “Listen: your mother pours milk in a cup.” emphasize the familiar sounds within a home. In both cases, the speaker is listening to the mother as she carries out her daily routine. Something as simple as listening to their mother walking around the kitchen brings a sense of familiarity as the speaker is able to recognize the creaking of the floorboards. The line “Your mother is calling, listen:” towards the end of the second stanza emphasizes a mother awaiting her child’s return home. The poem makes it appear as though a long period of time has passed since the speaker had been home, as they state, “Snow fills your tracks,” and even includes the word "forgiveness," as though there was healing that needed to occur over a period of time. This, again, continues to emphasize how the mother has created a secure environment for her family and has successfully protected them and painted herself as a parental figure who can be trusted.
At the same time, there is a sense of familiarity in “She Became a Liar.” The boy in the poem is familiar with the speaker as he is immediately able to depict the difference in her appearance. As the boy challenges the speaker, he waits until he receives an answer that he feels is reasonable. Had the trusting relationship not existed prior to the conversation, the boy would have been left still with questions and concerns about the speaker’s well-being. However, because the speaker had created an environment in which the boy felt safe, he was able to walk away from the conversation truly believing that his sister was safe.
Various lines in "Childhood" paint images of safety. Crozier uses intentional words choice and imagery to allow the reader to feel the safety that the child is experiencing within their own home. “Feather forests, the birds are white / and make no sound.” are two lines that stick out as Crozier moves from a scene within the home to a description of the surrounding area. White is a colour often used when referencing innocence or purity, once again reiterating the importance of this theme in Crozier's poem. The birds make no sound, so as not to wake the child from their sleep. By using the phrase feather forests, the image portrays the home being sheltered. The leaves of the trees draping over them, like the wings of birds, protecting them from any harm that may come their way. In the first stanza, Crozier clearly describes a safe home environment.
In the second stanza, Crozier goes into more detail about the mother herself. She says, “Your mother is calling. / Your name is warmed by her breath.” The warmth that the child feels upon hearing their mother’s voice trickles out to the audience as they become entangled in the strong emotions being described in the poem. Crozier describes the warm, caring household that has been built.
One element of this poem that stands out is how it is only the mother who is described as creating a safe and secure home for her child. The absence of the father, whether physical or emotional, emphasis the gentle nature of the mother. Crozier writes, “With her voice she builds a doorway / for you to enter, even now, / from such a long way off.” Though the amount of time and distance is unclear, the message is: no matter how far the child goes, or how long they are away for, the mother will always have a home waiting for them. In order to ensure Crozier does not overcomplicate the meaning of the poem, she uses basic language and relatable images. Home is safe, and the mother will always provide that environment.
Similarly, in my own poem, the idea of protecting the child prevails. The speaker carries all emotional burdens on herself as she attempts to continue to shelter her younger sibling, knowing his innocence must be protected. Even though it means that she must lie and carry the shame of her actions, the speaker does it without hesitation so that the boy will remain unaware.
Therefore, through analyzing Crozier’s and my own poem, one can see how both of them emphasize protecting those who are vulnerable and the innocence of childlike trust. Crozier uses the tone of her poem to portray a child who is able to wholeheartedly depend on their mother for all of their needs. The safety within the home creates an environment in which the child can thrive. In “She Became a Liar,” the boy’s innocence is also protected as he feels like he can believe the story his sister tells him. The difference between “Childhood” and Crozier’s other poems is astounding as one can see her put herself in a vulnerable situation by sharing more sincere, intimate feelings through her writing. By drawing attention to senses such as hearing, feeling, and seeing in the poem, Crozier creates a poem to which many readers can relate. Thus, through studying the two poems, one can see the importance of protecting the innocencent and embracing childlike trust.
MacDonald, Tanis. Regarding the Male Body: Lorna Crozier's Specular Erotics. MA Thesis. University of Manitoba, 2000. Web.
"Life" Lorna Crozier. http://www.lornacrozier.ca/life/index.html