Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

5-2011

Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis

Degree Title

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Department

English

Major Advisor

Martin Corless-Smith, Ph.D., M.F.A.

Abstract

The problem presented in Le Spleen D’Ash is of identity, paralysis, and the Lyric. “Ash” serves as a representation of traditional connotations—a fire’s remains, a resurrection, the ash tree—as well as a symbol for the Lyric “I” in the poems: a plea toward my own voice in the manuscript. Placing honestly into a book is normal, and, when combined with abstract ideas, builds a foreign yet simultaneously comfortable frame for the poems. The presence of a named speaker, Ash, is a common practice, but the fact that my speaker is also metaphorically complex adds further dimensions.

Familiar images like a whale become skewed so the reader isn’t sure their imagined whale is or can be the whale in the poem. A Dutch baby is simultaneously a breakfast pastry and infant. The poems work against their object’s familiarity to push the reader into an unsure space about their own perceptions of the meaning and purpose of the poems.

Though these poems were not written with strict rules or restrictions, very specific processes produced the majority of the manuscript. Forms of communicating over distances—ex. celestial navigation, echo location, or telegraph—play a key role in the development of the movement in some poems: language structures designed to inform and define various communications are excised and used as forms of action in the poems. Research in these fields was necessary in order to develop an understanding of the languages of the communications.

Translation is also important to this collection. As mentioned above, one goal of these poems is to create an uneasy feeling surrounding the preconceived notion of an image and what the poem attempts to imagine in itself. This toying manifests in a homophonic translation of Charles Baudelaire’s “Spleen.” My goal here is to capture the meaning of Baudelaire’s “Spleen” in a brutal and forceful language that demands an increased commitment from the reader to push themselves into the uncomfortable space with these poems.

If conclusions can be made in poems, Le Spleen D’Ash does not supply any beyond identifying with poetry’s abstract ideals. The purpose here is not to conclude, but rather supply a lens for thought; provoke questions of authenticity; and show the guttural honesty of the spleen in Ash. The Lyric isn’t meant to provide a conclusion but a portrait, and this, I feel, is accomplished.

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