Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)
Type of Culminating Activity
Thesis - Boise State University Access Only
Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
Martin Corless-Smith, Ph.D.
Janet Holmes, M.F.A.
Jeffrey W. Westover, Ph.D.
In October 2015, the streaming service Twitch launched its Twitch Creative channel with a marathon of The Joy of Painting. I watched as Bob Ross followed a simple procedure to create an endless succession of paintings. Users in the comments section completed the stream through a parallel engagement with form and repetition. In January 2016, I switched from watching the stream to watching one of my cats who had become suddenly and terrifyingly sick to the point where he would not eat. I searched online for a form or a bank of words to help me process my anxiety and found, among other things, a passing reference to Erysichthon from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
More generally, I’m constantly reading (into) the cats I keep in my house and looking for a useful identification. I’m participating locally in a larger structure of the internet that makes cats into stable memes (grumpy cat, keyboard cat, long cat), which is a way to pretend that stability exists. Part of this identification is in the cat performing for others the character I interpret in it. I stream my interactions with the cat for their approval. The stream is the event and the objective. It’s not a confession (where the confessional box is made for disclosing), but a space where I promise you that you can watch me being. The event thrives on repetition: the streamer predictably fills the form of the stream and watchers participate through the timely repetitions of memes and phrases in the comments section.
In the past, I have not been interested in poems that are the result of process or programs. They were easy to dismiss because all they demonstrated was that whatever arbitrary-seeming system that was created to make poems functioned as a poem-making machine. If there’s just a poem-making machine behind the poem, there’s no subjecthood to invest meaning in, which makes it more difficult to approach the poem as a significant site. In the process of writing these poems, however, the systematized process of form and repetition has become a comfort in the face of the infinite. If there are infinite potential poems, even just in English, then I have to pick from the infinite hoping to find something good when I am writing. As I approach this writing process, each poem still has the same likelihood of being (at all). Without any parameters, I find myself crippled by both choice and my desire to bring all things into the poem. In response to this, I set a system to allow the poem to appear in, just as the form of the stream creates the event of the stream. I gather the materials that I’ll make the poem from, which means a welcomed narrowing of the field in the assumption that some materials won’t work in the poem-making machine. These assumptions about adequate materials create the system -- they pick the poem -- and the possibilities for observing the system. So, I create the system (the poem), observe it, and then imagine that I have power over it. If the poems have knowledge of their creation, then they also have power over their creation.
The system is going. We notice that it’s going. Then we have to find a way to figure out why it’s going. All we have access to explain it is how we perceive the system to be working.
Barr, Ashley, "Feed" (2017). Boise State University Theses and Dissertations. 1242.