Mary is a Loaded Name. Review of the Collected Writings of Mary Skrenta (2015).
Throughout this collection fire, dancing, and demons repeatedly appear as well as the overarching themes of religion, sex, violence, vulnerability, humor and blame. These themes today have a parasitic relationship, particularly as a result of the conservative foundation of US culture. Religion and repression are one and the same within the work. Repression comes through in the secondary themes of guilt, shame, and the mother daughter relationship, both biological and metaphorical. I Remember Now and Pour are the strongest visually, because composition was considered and both give the eye and the voice breathing room. Spacing, value, and color become noticeable elements though are not fully integrated into the entire text. Though consistent throughout and explained in Things I Want You to Know About Me, the font choice does not seem deliberate. A few of the works demand more space for holding or breathing between words and lines. I’m intrigued by the idea of introducing physical texture into the works, as it might enhance the sensory experience. Poetry as sensory experience often includes an aural reading. Much is hidden and revealed in the tone, inflection and rhythm of the voice. The aural interpretation of the works brought to light a couple of thoughts. All of the works are written in the authors voice, with the exception of The Holding Back. The words take on a musical quality in Pour, I Remember Now, Sand in My Teeth, and The Holding Back, and I long for the visual to reflect that expression like pages of sheet music. As a collection there exists a particularly successful momentum and rhythm that drives the reader to revisit the works. Each successive reading provides fresh insight. I was left with questions about the mother. Who is she? Has she become an asexual figure? Is she the victim or the deity? Both speech and thought occur fragmented and non-linear, to be authentic to those experiences and to the style of the work, specific fragmented responses are included below.
I’m a Teenager Today
I think suicide, metaphorically. It is obscure.
I Remember Mary
Mary is the author, the biblical virgin, the daughter and the mother. Religion is the mother, the aggressor, the rationale. Sex is the mother, the snake, the shame, and freedom. Violence is couched neatly within both religion and sex. Vulnerability is the naivety of youth, the language of the victim and freedom. Humor is a coping strategy, a release, and pushes aside guilt and shame. Blame is defined by another, predetermined by religion, the action of the aggressor.
I Remember Now
This piece reads as a prayer to whom I am uncertain. Both religion and sex require a merger to arrive at a heightened experience. Like the ecstasy of St. Teresa, the experience is infinite and endures with faith.
The layout feels a bit cramped. I long for more room to breathe on the page.
Great play on words in the last sentence. The pervert affected by the perversion of life. It speaks to youth, growth and change. The idea of having abnormal tendencies because we are corrupted and distorted from our original state.
Easy & Smooth
Reads like an add for chocolate syrup. Feels more emotional than physical, maybe it’s about love or lust or crushing hard.
Sand in My Teeth
References a psychological or emotional state. I think about longing, longing to embrace or participate. Fire comes up again here and dancing. Who are you dancing with? Lucifer or the snake. The ash is the left overs.
Things I Want You to Know About Me
Who is the you? The audience? Is this a love letter or a disclaimer letter?
This is the first introduction of optimism within the collection. The reader identifies with the vulnerability.
The Holding Back
Are you holding back by choice or out of fear? Who is the mother making the decisions? Is it a diety, the Man, the institution of religion? Who is the enforcer?
It’s about woman, women, age, feminism, being an artist, claiming an identity, erasure, and the redefining of the outline.
To learn more about Mary’s work and her process please visit http://maryskrenta.com/blog/
As part of the second-year graduates’ Thesis Projects I course, candidates were each assigned two of their cohort to review. As students begin writing their thesis papers and constructing artist statements, this review process proves to be beneficial twofold. Students not only exercise their written critique skills, but are able to read about their own project from other voices. Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting these reviews, so be sure to visit regularly for insights and photos of the second years’ progress!