Meet Me Out There
by Shutta Crum
38 poems, 68 pages
Price: $20.00
ISBN: 978-1-639804450
Publisher: Kelsay Books
To order:

Reviewed by Neil Leadbeater.

Born in Paintsville, Kentucky, Shutta Crum is an award-winning author and poet, educator, story-teller, public speaker and retired librarian. Her chapbook, When You Get Here (2020) won a gold Royal Palm Literary Award. Her second collection, The Way to the River came out in 2022. Both books were published by Kelsay. She is also the author of three novels for young readers and many children’s picture books. She resides with her husband in Ann Arbor, Michigan and her website is

The poems in this volume are divided into five sections of roughly equal length and the book is dedicated ‘to friendship and to poetry’.

Those of us who have read and admired her previous collections will be only too aware of her ability to surprise and delight with specific one-line descriptions that lighten up the page. In this collection we meet ‘wildflowers that are shameless and drunk on sunshine’, hear ‘the growl of tires spitting gravel’, see ‘the slant of light through maple leaves’, discover ‘summer wheat blown astray’ and contemplate the notion of ‘sisters leaping through the spray of a sprinkler’.

The poems follow a chronological sequence from childhood to adolescence, maturity to old age, the final section being a sustained meditation on death and dying. Reading the opening and closing poems, there is also a sense of things having come full circle. The slightly surreal cover art, together with the title of the collection, suggests some kind of reunion in the afterlife in that ‘small meadow of silence’ where Crum suggests that we can meet
We can stand beside rivers that have always known
where they are going.

It won’t matter if we slip into the water.
Each stumble is an acknowledgement of earth, and of sky –
that vast wonder that starts down by our feet and rises and rises.
It’s always there to welcome our return.

The overriding idea of being on a journey, which is made clear in her two previous publications, also holds true here.

In this collection, which begins with our ‘First Mother’ conjured out of Africa, Crum also gives us some cameos of her own mother and father and one or two other family members. There is humour to be found in ‘God’s Second Thought’ which recounts the creation of Eve out of Adam’s spare rib. A darker sense of humour pervades over ‘Death Comes for Dinner’ where Death is seen as the uninvited guest. Humour runs wild and untamed in ‘The Half-Life of a Test Orbit’ where Crum pauses to ask: ‘Do ghosts come back for shoes?’ Any poem that attempts to bring together Will Robinson from ‘Lost in Space’, Flash Gordon, David Bowie and Elon Musk’s Tesla must be a hoot by any standards. In ‘Demeter and the Corporate Good Ol’ Boys’ Crum gives us a light-hearted makeover of the Greek myth of Demeter and her beautiful daughter Persephone.

By contrast, there are also poems that are markers for tragedies in our modern age. The outpouring of grief for loved ones in ‘What They Wore’ – a sustained reflection on the Srebrenica genocide – is almost palpable. ‘Newton’s Laws :: Angles > Angels’ is dedicated to the young victims of school shootings in Uvalde, Oxford, Nickel Mines, Parkland, Newtown, and Columbine. The last line is particularly powerful when Crum poses the question: ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a firing pin?’

In ‘Lift Me Unto the Grasslands’ Crum gives us a moving account of what the future might hold for her and, by implication, for us all in the great unknown. The use of the Biblical word ‘unto’ in the title sets the tone where Shakespeare’s ‘mortal coil’ becomes Crum’s ‘mammalian shape’:

When I shake off this mammalian shape
I want to strip to naked seed.
I want to lift onto a passing breeze, hijack a ride
into the future on a dusty flank.

Like kindred ovules carried by mammoths,
early horses, aurochs –
the great grazers of the steppes,
I want to be quickened and cast out.
I want to feel my green spine momentous.

In the final poem of the book, titled ‘I’m Not All Here Today’, Crum’s last lines yield this memorable image: ‘I’m taking a nap – just breathing - / in a hammock stretched between God’s hands.’

Some experimentation with punctuation caught my attention while reading this collection. Several poems employ the use of the double colon [::] a symbol that is more usually associated with logic and mathematics or found in computer programming languages than in poetry. Another mathematical symbol, [>], meaning ‘more than’ is also employed. Crum makes use of these symbols in her poetry to enable the reader to create links between concepts and experiences that may be very different from one another.

This is a worthy addition to her two previous collections and will be eagerly sought by those who have come to admire her craft.


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