a people blessed, a land teeming

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type

Closed Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Theatre

First Advisor

Young Smith

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Second Advisor

Julie Hensley

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Third Advisor

Nancy Jensen

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre


This thesis manifests a lifelong obsession of my personal connection with the Hatfield-McCoy Feud through a critical analysis of my particular writing process, influences, and considerations in the endeavor to develop a creative manuscript which strives to reframe contemporary treatments of the feud, its participants, and the greater Appalachian region in a more immediate and authentic context. The critical section, “Digging Up Bones: A Personal Archaeology,” draws upon insights from Kim Addonizio, Annie Dillard, Richard Hugo, Ted Kooser, Brad Leithauser, and James Longenbach to explore necessary considerations when writing historical persona poetry and when working with form. It addresses the use of the poetic tools of lineation, white space, epigraphs, and the unique visual/textual intersection of poetry in constructing a cohesive collection. Inspiration for a variety of creative decisions sprang from the works of Julianna Baggott, Jan Beatty, Cathy Smith Bowers, Eduardo Corral, Emily Dickinson, David Hernandez, A. Van Jordan, Jim Wayne Miller, and Ellen Bryant Voigt.

The creative manuscript, a people blessed, a land teeming, contains three distinctive poem types: persona poems in the varying voice of individuals who were involved in feud events, compact minute form poems providing relevant background information or setting a scene, and found poetry derived and crafted from contemporary newspaper articles, correspondence, and roadside markers. The resulting collection transforms several years of intensive historical and genealogical research into a creative telling of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud through poetry. Collectively, the poems develop a compelling and fresh perspective on the feud while balancing historical accuracy with an authentic poetic voice.

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