Publication Date

5-2016

Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

2-26-2016

Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Department

English

Major Advisor

Martin Corless-Smith, Ph.D.

Advisor

Janet Holmes, M.F.A.

Advisor

Kerri Webster, M.F.A.

Abstract

Why I am so smart

I keep chickens for eggs and companionship. They live in a wire enclosure in my backyard which is enclosed by a fence. They are allowed to come out of their run in the morning, but I am often late to release them, and they spend the whole penned-in portion of the day pacing back and forth along fifteen feet of the wire wall. You can witness this same behavior in zoos, where animals who are inside use whatever powers they can muster to continually assess the terms of their cage.

The pacing isn’t walking but looking for an opening overlooked the thousand times we’ve looked before. Sometimes the pacing of my chickens continues for a several minutes after I have opened the door to their enclosure. This behavior is more instructive to me than the moment when they see the open door and flap their useless wings, fatly running out onto the lawn.

The bird of lyric tradition is a singer and a flyer. Its tight little aerodynamic body is perfectly formed to leave earth, whenever, in the shape and speed and sound that identifies to us our soul. Having already (forever) achieved the perfect form, the flyer transcends all ground rules and it is for this reason that the poem makes its home inside the tiny breast.

I am not saying this is not beautiful or true. Just that there are other birds, the kind we maintain for meat and eggs, plus a thousand other beings we understand as animals which is a word that lets us forget our own status as mainly corporeal, forever mucking in the rules of ground engagement. The typical chicken of poetry is synecdochic of humble and vital pastoral action or she is a cock. The chicken or cock of poetry frames the shape of the human day. Here, the chicken is usually a a grotesque picker and that makes her very much like me.

One idea of these poems is that the gross object self that is the soul is quite at home with chickens and turkeys and monkeys and cats in being fenced in, contingent upon conditions of matter and described not only by freedom from earthly relation but by bondage to that. The form of relation, of using and doing and care and exchange and refusal, is fun and untenable and perpetually in excess of erected bounds. We make it up as we go on, according to whatever script we’ve found on the ground.

The poems I like best are screens that remind me experience feels inscrutable and good and gross and pathetic and fun and, improbably, real. They might hope something very big—an endless mysterious open—actually exists, but they don’t try to compete. The funny little voice of the poem makes up the tenable space it can.

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