Date of Graduation

2015

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Degree Type

MFA

College

Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

Department

English

Committee Chair

Mary Ann Samyn

Committee Co-Chair

Julia Daniel

Committee Member

James Harms

Abstract

Reading and writing my work reminds me of skipping stones into the Pacific, noting the variations with each new rock, throw, and final skip count. The tone of a plop versus a skim-and-fade-out. The chances between these acts are the most basic foundation of this collection, Eating a Chicken's Heart.;The poems range from four lines to over thirty. The narrator is the self as I am, was, never was, thought of, tried, remembered, and yet to be known, and is a tool used to explore imagery and memory. The tropes of this collection are domesticity, childhood, the ancient, mythic, the mythic-self, love, devotion, memory, care, life, and the body; these are the interests of my mind and heart. Tone is a powerful energy source, moving from ebullience, mystery, silence, mercy, joy, love, humor, crisp, lush, and it often undercuts one tone against another creating tension syntactically and imagistically . The people encountered in the poems are sister, mother, father, grandmother, husband, child, and others. The poem population speaks to an overall pattern in life, where these people cycle through my mind and experience.;The tension travels through each line, some very clearly a line, and others subverting expectation. James Longenbach's The Art of the Poetic Line gave me my first understanding of line and the extreme possibilities of poetry, and my poetry became more succinct because I understood what unit I was working in, parsing, annotation, and endstopped. The line is devotion to tone, the vehicle of the soul for the translation of the double vision I have on the time and spaces I exist in. The compression of narrative and the loosening of the lyric---translation of the mythic-self each poet works toward---and mixed with the bodily experience.;I've struggled with syntax and diction, and found revision a place to work on understanding and challenging my patterned approaches, and to think about syntax and diction as choices rather than happenings. I find myself in new spaces, surprises, and I follow those impulses until lines no longer feel right. Elizabeth Bishop's work is a continuing model of surprise, from her early contained away-from-the-self poems, to an embrace of the mythic-self and wild prose poems from her time in Brazil. There has to be places to return to but returning requires leaving; I don't mind a parting; a habit develops best by practice. Overall, these poems tend toward patterns of odd syllable lines with hard stresses. During revision I tapped in to different syntaxes to help provide a smoother line, allowing the diction to pop. My ear is my own, but it bends.;I write poetry because it is the most challenging way to bring together soul and word, to give a secret note to the self. My first impulses of poetry were my wildest, because I had no tethers to any ideas. I found myself in the spaces of reality as I experienced them the same time in my head, and it was frightening to not understand that I had a source of energy in myself that was having a separate experience as the outside. Not revolutionary, but profound in practice. I don't believe in knowing the self as one incarnation: I believe in glimpsing the many experiences of the self in all sorts of situations, and that there are many sources of energy to hold hands with, some more provoking than others: writing poetry is the exploration of surrender, and joy, and hands, and green, and sister, and ocean's deep, and allowing each the space to unfold under the pressure of craft, testing the crispness of each word.

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