Date of Award

January 2014

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

Christina Lovin

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Third Advisor

Julie Hensley

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre


This manuscript addresses the process and product of this author's creative writing, and the literary traditions from which it has grown. The chapters of the critical introduction are a discussion of the craft techniques of Natalie Goldberg and Ted Kooser, primarily, with additional thoughts on technique and purpose from Anne Lamott, Flannery O'Connor, Kim Addonizio, and Dorianne Laux. Goldberg and Kooser model stream-of-consciousness writing practice and attention to detail and form, respectively. Lamott and O'Connor, like Goldberg, were chosen for their depth of vision, while Addonizio and Laux provided backup to Kooser on the technical use of literary devices.

Through these lenses, the author considered prose from Henry David Thoreau and Maya Angelou, and the poetry of Sharon Olds, Billy Collins, and of Kooser himself. These authors all possess the ability to express themselves through the dual layers of concision and lyricism. Each is adept at looking inward at the self as well as paying attention to the universe around them, and speaking truthfully about both. Examples of their work are cited as representations of the critical ideals held by the author and discussed in the craft works.

All of these authors, of course, talk about both passion and precision, and the argument is made here that when their philosophies are layered, a resulting piece of writing is also layered with meaning. The introduction also presents how these schools of thought manifest in this author's poetry and lyric essays. It contains discussions of the writing process, choices of subject matter, emotional motives, ways of seeing and comparing, and the elements of form on a large and small scale.

The author's creative manuscript Rhaptein/Aidein follows, which shows the end product of the union of unrestrained process and critical eye. In conclusion, the manuscript proves that successful poetry is built from the duality of heart/head and the corresponding elements of free/form, within/without, and magic/realism. The sliding scales of these foundations can produce myriad manifestations.

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