The Woodline

Date of Award

January 2018

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


The critical introduction to the original poetical works comprises three main sections. Process and Emotion draws upon the craft theory of Richard Hugo's The Triggering Town and William Stafford's "Some Arguments Against Good Diction" in addressing the subject of crafting individual poems and best processes. Additionally, this section confronts whether emotional distance is necessary for the artist and to what extent writers' own emotional states may be improved or worsened via craft. The second section, The Poet as Character, and Trauma, relies primarily on Mark Doty's critical and original work, exploring how poets construct themselves as characters within their own manuscripts, and how trauma often characterizes that self as subject. In my own work, addiction is a primary contributor. Finally, the last major section of the critical introduction, Rhythm, Rhyme, and Language discusses the influences that led my work into open forms that sometimes still employ rhyme, rap music being one of the most important antecedents. Influential poets such as Gary Snyder and Denise Levertov's approaches to craft are examined as well.

The thesis' original work is divided into three parts. Part one's poems remember a specific place, the place the speaker has returned to, which is where he grew up. Landscape (nature, and where nature and suburban sprawl collide) and family are interwoven. The speaker's former loves, mother and father, brother, and grandfather recur throughout the text, in addition to part one. Thus, the land and family spark memory: memory of what and where he's returned to, but also what he's left behind after returning home-this will be the subject (landscape and culture) of section two.

Part two is primarily concerned with expressing the speaker's response to a rural and forested landscape, one which he grows up within after moving from home, where he often works various outdoor and sometimes scientific jobs. This section precedes part one and is thus intended to work as in medias res, where the story actually begins. Part one, then, works as an epilogue, a sequence following part two. Further, the first half of the last section (part three) works even farther back than section two, still with the intention of elucidating how and why the speaker in part one views the world like he does, especially his affinity for nature and his need to look to nature (and memory) for a way out of suffering due to loss, a loss often associated with his own addiction and the addiction in his family. The second half of part three, however, picks up where part one ends. By that point in the text, the speaker has entered recovery, and his viewpoint alters: a feeling of resolution gets conveyed, though the speaker is magically in the hands of the animals, characters that, like family, recur along the journey.

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