Date of Award

5-1-2014

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Jordan, Judy

Abstract

ABSTRACT/PREFACE AUSTIN KODRA, for the MASTER OF FINE ARTS degree in CREATIVE WRITING, presented on March 24, 2014 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: VISIBILITY AT ZERO MAJOR PROFESSOR: JUDY JORDAN Nobody very close to me has ever died. I grew up in the most indescribably wonderful household. I have a fiancee who I am whole-soul in love with (for the reasons you all know well). And I am a healthy, young, American white male. Currently certain circumstances have forced my fiancee and me to live 7 hours apart. Being away from her and alone again has been a trial and has produced prolonged and deep feelings of sadness for the first time in my life. Depression or negative experiences (surviving trauma, tragedy, injustice, etc) seem to fuel and expand creativity for a lot of writers, and I know for a fact there is a critical mass of brilliant and perhaps untouchable work driven by these experiences. But as much I respect and care for such writing, I have found that writing or reading poetry is definitely not my go-to response for my own sadness. I've realized that's just not how I choose to process those feelings. Not yet, at least. So I'm writing this thesis with the hopes, primarily, to entertain, humor, and perhaps philosophize--on occasion (I've always enjoyed the big, sweeping statement, when used well). As such, there is not a definitive narrative arc to this thesis. It's not a project book. There are no concrete, content-driven ties between the three sections. This means I am obliged to deliver the connective tissue through other, more transient ways. Rodney Jones used to always make us start each poem we'd discuss in workshop by asking someone to define the intentions of the poem. I think that's a direction I've taken to heart as much as anything else during my time here. I must know and understand my own intentions, clearly and articulately. I must be able to be self-analytical--if I can't clearly voice my intention, how can I expect a reader to follow me down whatever path I've chosen. It is with that advice that I wrote most of my poems. My instincts as a storyteller and my particular imagination lead my intentions largely toward sarcasm, humor, relatable situations/stories, distinct voices, and occasional attempts at being philosophical. My intention is to write poems that are generally accessible in both content and form and carry at least a few particular themes or commonalities. In the interest not of defending my own work but of attempting to articulate my own understanding of it, I'd say that a few of the major themes I'm trying to work with across the book are would be: * Resistance to certain aesthetic trends in contemporary poetry. * Nostalgia - Reflective particularly of various "educational experiences," both inside and outside of school, ranging from early childhood through my teen years. * Exploration of external events and circumstances that I have either experienced or researched that I have found particularly engaging and fascinating, often at a psychological level ("Obsession" with people with obsessions - documentaries, etc). * Persona, and heavily voice-driven work. * Loss of innocence, usually filtered through particular events or situations. But above all things I've learned about writing while I've been in Carbondale, I've learned that for me, writing must be fun. Or I just won't do it. I'll watch or read something someone else had fun making instead. So it is my goal that these poems elicit a few smirks and raised eyebrows, a chuckle, or maybe a moment or readers remember a time they felt it, too.

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