Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Marilyn Kallet

Committee Members

Arthur Smith, Ben Lee, Les Essif


Pablo and Celia, my collection of lyric poems, is composed in several voices, but the personae Pablo and Celia remain the focus. The collection is a sequence formed of both discrete, untitled fragments and more traditionally titled poems that follow the narrative arc of Pablo and Celia’s relationship as they think aloud or write one another. They speak directly and generally in their own syntax and forms, but this rule is violated when they “steal” one another’s voice, as in “Celia on Celia.” There is an element of chaos in terms of formal properties between poems and voices as each persona and each poem creates its own rules of play. Sometimes the persona’s imagination transports her or him outside of his or her normal modes of speech, but, generally, certain conventions cohere around each persona, modes of syntax particularly, that relate to their different processes for apprehending the world. Pablo seeks to rethink, if not remake, the world, a normative approach that tries to adapt the world to the ego. His voice typically presents a clipped syntax and associative process of connection between images. Celia, on the other hand, seeks to merge with the physical, often natural world, a submerging of ego to the beauty around her. Her voice usually presents itelf in prose with longer sentences, surrealist logic, and a lush soundscape in comparison to Pablo’s. Both struggle to understand themselves and their place in this moment rife with physical and intellectual violence.

The poems are prefaced by a theory of play; although most of my readings are drawn from the more radical end of the spectrum, my purpose in this exploration is not to privilege one system of versification over others. Rather, I would like to demonstrate how those radical strategies fit into the larger tradition by reading poems along a spectrum of sense-making. I propose the following introduction to play as both my own personal poetics and as a theory to frame an inclusive approach to poetry.

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