Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts
I came to SIU with poetic sensibilities and a sense of whimsy about writing from my undergraduate years. In the interim period, I managed the volunteer construction of over 120 new homes in Hurricane Katrina ravaged Southeast Louisiana and the home repair of hundreds more for low-income families in the impoverished region of Appalachia. I have stories. I can swing a hammer and cut a board straight as a factory edge. I wanted the same craft knowledge in poetry as I gained in home building. I did not and still do not avidly read poetry. Too often I feel poetry strives for obfuscation and devolves into literary claptrap. I am interested in construction narratives that are comprehendible and meaningful. When the professor I applied to SIU to work with (Rodney Jones) retired and was not replaced (the ol' bait and no replace) I switched my focus to fiction and attempted to use this period of time in graduate school to obtain narrative skills to better express my experiences, memories, ideas, and humor in whatever format that may eventually take. During my first year in the M.F.A. program I began to refer to poems as "word piles" rather than assuming the ostentatious label of "poetry." I do not consider myself a poet, but rather a storyteller. During my three years at this directional state school, I have almost unanimously chosen socialization over writing in solitary confinement. During these social times, conversing and joking with my colleagues, I felt most inspired and motivated to create--characters, voices, histories, and stories. I am still learning to appropriate this creative process to my writing and searching for what I truly enjoy engaging in as a writer and creator. In this thesis there is no overarching narrative. Rather, the poems that follow represent various elements that interest me. There are poems that deal with construction work, incidents from growing up, idea driven work, and pieces that deal with my experience living in and working with the people of Appalachia. I am drawn to the anecdote and find in poetry I can mix the varied adventures and characters I have experienced with my imaginings in a manner that will reach people outside the genre. All the poems that follow are meant to be read and accessible by people unfamiliar with the pretentious underpinnings of poetry and to cogently express the ideas and experiences I find to be engaging and meaningful.
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