Author

Robin F. Brox

Date of Award

5-2005

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Advisor

Jennifer Moxley

Second Committee Member

Burton Hatlen

Third Committee Member

Constance Hunting

Abstract

This collection of poems represents the culmination of my poetry writing while attending graduate school; as my thesis, it is submitted to fulfill a requirement for the Master of Arts degree in English with a concentration in creative writing in the Department of English at the University of Maine, May 2005. The manuscript is divided into two sections: the first, Tinsel Strength, contains a variety of poems, from lyric to experimental in style; the second, The Orchid Sheaf, is a translation project. It consists of the Calamus poems from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman "translated" across gender. I composed these poems under the formal constraint of using the same number of words per line as Whitman's originals, in an effort to combine our poetic voices; my poems approximate his expansiveness of breath, and therefore sound markedly different from those in the first chapter. Both sections make manifest certain aesthetic preoccupations, including the poetic approximation of memory, longing, love, desire, pain, politics, and relationships. A number of my poems are either titled for or dedicated to another person, either a close friend, or a fellow poet. I believe that poetry creates a community, and that this community makes up a part of a larger poetic discourse. When one reads a poem, one experiences that world, but when one writes a poem, one actively engages with it. The composition process of my Master's thesis has been challenging and deeply fulfilling, thanks in part to the active poetry community at the University of Maine, a truly valuable resource. Two visiting poets in particular had a tremendous impact on my writing: Eirin Moure and Alice Notley. I began my Whitman translation project in summer 2003, shortly before I enrolled in graduate school. During my first semester, poet and translator Eirin Moure read in the New Writing Series; I had the opportunity to talk to her about writing. She describes her book, Sheep's Vigil by a Fervent Person, as a "transelation" of Fernando Pessoa's 0 Guardador de Rebanhos. As I read her explanation, I recognized some remarkable similarities in our projects. Moure adjusted Pessoa's work to reflect her life as a woman in Toronto, Ontario, much as I had begun adapting Whitman's poetry to my gender experiences. In the fall of my second year, poet Alice Notley spent a week as Poet-in-Residence at the University of Maine. I had the pleasure of an individual conference with her to discuss some of my poetry. Her criticism was insightful and transformative. Notley encouraged me to continue exploring a multitude of voices and styles in my writing, and helped me to become a more attentive writer, using the form of the poem to direct its reading. My experiences at the University of Maine have been instructive and enriching to my writing life. This thesis represents the imaginative, wellnurtured fruit of that experience.

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