Type of Document Dissertation Author King, Cynthia Elaine URN etd-04032007-171847 Title The Second Knock Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title David Kirby Committee Chair Andrew Epstein Committee Member Brenda Cappuccio Committee Member James Kimbrell Committee Member Keywords
- Creative Writing
Date of Defense 2007-03-30 Availability unrestricted AbstractThe Second Knock is a compilation of poems composed between 2000 and 2006. It is written out of a sense of curiosity and in an attempt to know the world and the people in it. To see similarities and differences. To live in my imaginings and invite others in. It is written in an attempt to rescue readers from a false sense of the world and themselves, to save us from the popular media’s reduction of language into a series of clichés. It hopes to subvert received ideas and imbue language with fresh denotative and connotative possibilities, ideally inventing its own language through the particular use and context of words.
Many of the poems deal with the struggle to come to a language that reflects and communicates experience, although not necessarily my own. I communicate experiences, both real and imagined, in an attempt to make sense of the messy business of life, to bring chaos and confusion into order, even if that order is sometimes equally illogical or absurd. Consequentially, many of these poems often rely on absurdist and surrealist techniques; therefore, they depend heavily on figurative language and metaphor to ground them in reality. I attempt to combine the familiar and the strange in hopes of allowing readers to see the world in fresh, surprising ways.
Despite my exploration and sometimes interrogation of language, the poems in this manuscript eventually come back to lived experience—both public and private, in our crucial moments and prolonged phases, in our rituals and ceremonies. The poems take as their subject not only language, creativity, and poetry itself, but also, of course, the usual suspects: frustration, loneliness, alienation, desire, joy, loss, despair. Nevertheless, this work is also a marriage of imagination and language—of imagined language and "languaged" imagination. In as much as they communicate with readers, my poems invite people to see the world as I do, providing a panoptical version of reality, one filtered, reflected, and refracted through imaginative possibilities. My intention is to provide readers with a wider sense of "the real" in a world where reality has become increasing difficult to define.
I practice a “reading-into-writing” philosophy of composition, which means much of my work is directly inspired by other poems. I am indebted to poets such as Vasko Popa, Carlos Drummond De Andrade, and Zbigniew Herbert, whose work has often provided the spark for many of the poems in this collection. The works of their translators, particularly Charles Simic and Mark Strand and their anthology Another Republic: 17 European and South American Writers, have also been a strong influence on my writing. In fact, some of my poems might themselves be seen as translations, of my lived experience and especially of my experience reading poems. Thus, some of the work here has that feeling of translation, a tension or uneasiness within the syntax and diction.
Throughout most of the dissertation, I take a minimalist approach to writing, avoiding what sometimes seems like dishonesty or mere ornamentation in other poems. By using poetic exercises of my own invention, I often riff, repeat, and imitate poems until something catches. I would like for the poems in this manuscript to reveal the kind of playful energy, that sense of humor and escape I often feel when writing them. When drafting a poem, I usually go on intuition and nerve, writing a kind of seat-of-your-pants poetry that often fails. Revision and deliberation, however, have helped shape some of these drafts into the poems in this collection. Nevertheless, trial and error play a large role in my creative process, and I see my workspace as a kind of laboratory, where under flickering bulb, I create poems out of the petri dish and test tube. Some of the poems here reflect this kind of experimentation, exploring the opportunities that arise from the accidental: cut-ups, homophonic translations, misread lines, generative exercises. While the dissertation’s title implies luck, possibility, and a kind of blind optimism that is distinctly American, the sections titles often undercut this notion with the skepticism that I sometimes feel toward “experimentation.” Ultimately, my poems call attention to words and letters themselves, from their sound and feel in the mouth to their look on the printed page. I see these poems as a celebration of language and hope to communicate my love for words and their appeal to our sense of sight, sound, drama and tension, and intellect.
Above all, I hope these poems reveal a kind of kinship or communication with those that have come before them, and that they will somehow contribute, as do others, to the way we see, or will see, this place and time. I would like for my poems to converse with our culture in a way that at some times questions, subverts, and rebels against it, while at others aestheticizes and enhances it.
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