Type of Document Thesis Author Montjoy, Ashley Nicole URN etd-04112005-105107 Title Dark Veins Degree Master of Arts Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title James Kimbrell Committee Chair Barbara Hamby Committee Member David Kirby Committee Member Keywords
- Creative Writing
Date of Defense 2005-03-21 Availability unrestricted AbstractABSTRACT
Every day I find images that evoke deep connections in me. These images occur when I see a woman jogging, read a marquee, or overhear a conversation at the grocery store, the coffee house, or post office. When I write I try to make sense of the connections. I attempt to unearth how and why they affect me. My poems are born from my desire to understand the connection inside the moments—those fleeting instances in which I perceive life’s most banal and extraordinary forms. I write inside a revolving glass door of perception and growth, and at best, my poems demonstrate the cultivation of my poetic third ear—a susurration located in the darkest rivulets of my veins.
DEVELOPMENT and POETIC THIRD EAR
Anne Sexton said, “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard,” and this is how I construct my poems. My third ear is embedded inside my marrow’s reddest folds. It is a phantom voice that haunts my perception. It is an elision in the back of my brain, an inner writing guide that cultivates my desire to write “good” narrative poems.
Before entering the realm of my third ear, I wrote restrained, abstract, attempting-to-be lyric poems and I relied heavily on one-inch lines to carry the tension. I felt imprisoned as though I was trying to utilize a form and vocabulary unnatural to me. I was trying to write short, dense poems which amounted to nothing more than descriptive gestures. As a result, these poems did not enter my thesis because the style and form did not echo the development of my voice. During this same time, fear prevented me from experimenting with narrative poems, and it was rare for me to feel comfortable writing a poem longer than one page. Then I began listening to my third ear—a shallow reverberation of acute awareness.
At the same time, I revisited the poets that made me want to write in the first place. I fell back in love in the Beat Poets, particularly the momentum and sorrow in Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish.” I studied Sharon Olds’s complex constructions of the body and line enjambment. And I looked inward and I began rereading everything I’d ever written. Surprisingly, the poems I wrote as an undergraduate weren’t bad, but they sounded like tangents and not poems. Nonetheless, these early attempts at poetry exuded a stark sense of rawness, of unconstrained vulnerability and an inherent desire to tell stories in a poetic form. “The Art of Female Shaving” is one of my earliest attempts to write narrative poems, and it marks the first time I understood what Robert Pinksy meant when he said, “The best feeling for a poet is just having written.” This was the first moment when I unshackled myself from the “type of poems” I thought I should be writing, and instead began writing in a style and form natural to me.
My third ear tells me when to “let out the story” and when to tighten. It shows me how to have faith in the poem’s spiritual force. It is intuitive energy hidden in my body’s darkest veins.
CONSTRUCTION of SUBJECTS
I write what I know: my experiences, memories, dreams, and my imaginative musing. I write from the desire to discover how and why my experiences create psychological and emotional detriment or strength. The poems “Death Guides Me Away from Materialism” and “Dreamscape: Buffalo-Skinned Girl Prophesy” turn toward the Tarot, astrology, and mythology to unearth these answers. In addition, a central rivulet in my work is the powerful element of water—a mutable force capable of great destruction and beauty, and its reciprocity with my poetic third ear.
The speakers in my poems continually perform investigations into love, love lost, sorrow, familial relationships, and sex. My work might seem Confessional, and indeed, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton were some of my earliest influences, and while my poems might confess, this does not originate solely from autobiography but also from imagination and story. I am not a diarist, and if the speakers in my poems seem to seek closure, it is because she hasn’t the courage to sit in the raw space of not-knowing.
Lyn Hejinian’s essay The Rejection of Closure posits poetic theories that I still grapple with during my writing process. She argues toward making the poetic line reach simultaneously toward the next line and outward into the world. In certain sections the essay seems to promote density inside the poem’s subject content, but also to “reject closure.” Hejinian’s theories resonate with my poetic third ear, and somewhere along the way I started making a conscious effort to write more multilateral poems. These poems avoid linearity and choose instead to zigzag in and out of my experiences and into the world’s gorges. If I’ve succeeded with this technique, then “Decay of Red Brick,” “Ode to Tawdry and other Banished Words,” and “At the Vaginal Curator,” are the best examples.
I write with the intention to “make sense” of a moment or internal feeling—an offering of my voice in its most primordial stage. I write with the hope that an image or phrase will touch my readers in his or her deepest, darkest vein.
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