Title

Samsara

Award Date

5-1-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Committee Member

Donald Revell

Second Committee Member

Claudia Keelan

Third Committee Member

Julie Staggers

Fourth Committee Member

Elizabeth Nelson

Number of Pages

75

Abstract

In Samsara, I bring a spiritual-historical lens to art, war, feminism, religion, and the body in extremis. Although the word samsara resonates mostly within the Hindu and Buddhist faiths, meaning literally to wander through the rounds of death and rebirth, my poetics of transience and trauma crosses cultures, including Muslim, Christian, and Judaic notions of spirituality. Bosnia, Iowa, Boston, and Prague are all shifting sands within the mandala-like hourglass of this collection. My voice often issues from a working class register and speaks with rebellious power from a place of powerlessness: "E-bay nirvana, you want me to yes sir/I'll get on it." By placing religious icons such as the Buddha in a porn shop, I question the commercialization of spirituality and troubles its waters with feminine desire. The speaker's aggression - "I threw a navy" -- is aimed at a patriarchy and capitalism whose children "wave mickey mouse sparklers." It hits its target.

Babies haunt this collection. The poem "Sojourner" in particular occupies a liminal space within the lyric tradition, as a woman speaks to her unborn child and "chooses" to send it back to wander in the bardo. The poems enact an ontological claim through the spiritual recycling of images throughout the book: ultimately, nothing ever dies, everything returns eternally. The detritus of language and bodies - "Pink moon of a baby's fingernail" - recombine like DNA into something alive - "The babies of the dead have had their incubators turned on." The personal is political, as is art from Bernini to Rothko. In "Judging Vermeer," I turn a critical eye on the Dutch master and the Golden Age that created a safe haven from war which allowed him to paint idyllic domestic scenes, while she also looks at our current wars with a self-incriminating glance. In "Samsara" the domestic is anything but idyllic as men and women clash in the ultimate war of the sexes - "Missile minuet, he said./And I the masseuse of his cut the thorns off Martha Stewart style genius."

Provocative and beautifully grotesque, these poems light up the eye and ear with a halo and punch the gut with a rainbow.

Keywords

poetry

Disciplines

Poetry

Language

English

Available for download on Friday, October 06, 2017


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