Award Date

5-1-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

English

First Committee Member

Claudia Keelan

Second Committee Member

Donald Revell

Third Committee Member

Richard M. Wiley

Fourth Committee Member

David R. Dickens

Number of Pages

71

Abstract

This project is the culmination of ten years of work in poetry. It was begun in imitation of those who impressed, not only with their fine words and dexterity with language, but also with their clear conviction in their subject material. Reflected in the works of Allen Ginsberg, Walt Whitman, and Adrienne Rich, among others, was evidence of a life lived, in Thoreau's term, deliberately. The writing of poetry seemed to be not simply a means of expression, but a goad to live a life worth examining, and to keep doing so; a progress report for a radical mind.

Politics and poetry have always been connected, though at times the connection is difficult to locate. Overtly political poems often flop rather than booming; didactic, sentimental, tinny. If the connection between them is not found solely in the "political" poem, maybe it can be found in the conditions of the poem's creation. Life is so often ineffable, betraying words and the minds that would use them. To write a poem, one must first be connected to life, using that connection to enliven inert language. The political journey of poetry is the management of that relationship, and the deliberate definition of its forms and avenues. The first and best tool in this process is attention. This includes attention to oneself, to the myriad entities, relationships, institutions and literatures surrounding the writer, and finally to the poem itself. If a poem is to stand as a piece of art, it is measured by its intentionality, by the evidence of its purposefulness. Though the situation that occasions a poem must be considered as given, the poem, as response, is in effect a series of choices. These choices are the essence of the poem itself, and they are moral choices. Which word to use, how to break a line, how to represent one's perspective on the world, are choices which directly entangle the poet with their surroundings, with their language and literature, and with their reader.

This sense of the primacy of a living relationship, of a poetry that knows it is in the world and cannot forget that fact, is perhaps the first choice. Then, in the words of Adrienne Rich, I hope you find here: "not a map of choices but a map of variations/on the one great choice."

Keywords

Poetics; Poetry

Disciplines

American Literature | Poetry

Language

English


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