Title

Nearer

Date of Award

6-2004

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Nancy Eimers

Second Advisor

Dr. Gwen Raaberg

Third Advisor

Dr. Cynthia Running-Johnson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. William Olsen

Abstract

I'm most challenged and captivated by a poetics which demarcates that intersection between history and place, how what happens--both publicly and privately--gets intimately tied to environment. As much as my poems aim to record and examine what takes place, they explore more fundamentally the taking of place, those ways in which the imagination both registers the world and transforms it through poetic description into a vocabulary of consciousness. Often employing fragmentation, my poems explore phrasings that both imply wholeness and the inability to achieve it. This comes, in part, out of Emily Dickinson who often uses silence in poems in order to bring readers to the edge of meaning, where language approaches the unknowable. Likewise, I believe an inherent argument of my poetry is the impossibility of language to mean and hold all that we want and need it to.

It's against this theoretical backdrop that the title, Nearer , emerges as a unifying concept across the span of my individual poems. 1t is both an evocation of the abiding need to bridge the gap between utterance and meaning, as well as geographic and interpersonal distances. Thus we may not rely solely on direct statement but must create other avenues of expression. Another, very different path through which language creates meaning is by calling attention to itself, to its own materiality. Although my poems do not share the strict modernist project of someone like Gertrude Stein or the post-modern political agendas of the Language Poets, they sometimes employ similar techniques in order to force new meanings through juxtaposition and sound/word play. Nearer strives to ask questions of language and the world in order to push the limitations of our systems of thought. My poems examine the gap between the signifier and the sign--between the word and the concept--and seek to find a kind of symmetry amidst a necessarily chaotic existence. I approach this complexity by using images of landscape to help meaning accrue throughout the poems. Often the images are glances gleaned from memory, a reconstruction and calling up of a past only accessible through a recollection itself mediated by language. Thus, the hope found through memory is tempered by the notion that memory itself is constructed; the joy in the poems, though present and trying always to present itself, is quiet, is tenuous.

Throughout my studies, I came to recognize the vital importance of bringing my critical research in contemporary and historical literatures to bear on my creative work in ways that both enriched and challenged my own poetic project. The dissertation includes not just my original poems, but also a critical introduction framing my work within the wider landscape of contemporary poetry.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Campus Only

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