Mysteries in a World That Thinks There Are None

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. William Olsen

Second Advisor

Dr. Nancy Eimers

Third Advisor

Dr. Jon Adams

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Molly Lynde-Recchia


The poems in Mysteries in a World that Thinks There Are None , whether short lyrics, long-lined meditative narratives, mythically inspired prose poems, or multi-page ekphrastic sequences, seek to understand my own life through the stories and lives of others. Examining parenthood, the risk of—and fundamental necessity for—change, and mysteries of the natural world, the poems offer personal epiphanies as filtered through the domestic realities of Eric Fischl's paintings. Whether it's a woman reclining naked on a bed in front of her pick-pocketing young son (Bad Boy) or a teenage boy discovering himself sexually in a wading pool (Sleepwalker ), the people in Fischl's paintings, and thus the speaker in these poems, find mysterious and unsolvable the world around them. For these poems, Fischl's paintings become an alternate world, a parallel world through which the speaker draws sensory and lyrical comparisons between the life he leads and the lives he sees on Fischl's canvases.

A distinct and steady voice fuses together the collection's four sections, which employ ekphrasis among other poetic strategies, including the use of a collage of voices, images, and seemingly unconnected events and language (“The Bed, the Chair...” and “The Travel of Romance”); the starting, stopping, and layering of the stories of others (“This Summer with Fischl” and “The Windows Are Always Open”); and the threading of the personal voice and the public voice that together create a life (“Come Morning” and “Something Predatory”). Though various techniques form the basis for these poems, many of them were also directly inspired by the study of specific poets, including Charles Wright (“Dear Obsessions”), Peter Gizzi (“Your Memoir Is about Me”), and Linda Gregerson (“Mysteries in a World That Thinks There Are None”), not the mention the influence of Walt Whitman's cosmic consciousness.

Mysteries in a World that Thinks There Are None accurately and properly represents the intellectual and creative sojourn I've taken here at Western Michigan University. The many literary theories, works of literature, and teachings I've been privy to here are greatly responsible for shaping these poems.

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