Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Arthur E. Smith

Committee Members

Marilyn Kallet, Benjamin F. Lee, Robert J. Sklenar


Field Notes for the Magician is a poetic coming of age story told in three movements. The poems follow a young woman’s struggle to make sense of the tragic loss of her mother, and of the subsequent losses of love and faith she experiences in the process. The critical introduction places the manuscript within the tradition of contemporary American poetry by exploring the influences that can be observed in its thematic concerns and formal innovations.The first movement, “Evidence of Things Not Seen,” explores the speaker’s traumatic childhood loss of a parent and the resulting changes to her environment. Framed by a sequence of sonnets, this section features a speaker whose gaze turns mostly inward toward the deeply personal. The poems explore the spiritual presence of the speaker’s mother, despite her physical absence.In “How to Lose,” the second movement of the manuscript, the speaker grapples with a first heartbreak and its accompanying loss of innocence. The poems in this section are more formally experimental, borrowing formal constraints from the sciences and other disciplines. Frequent use of the second person perspective helps these poems to begin considering more universal concerns.By the time we reach the final movement, “Field Notes for the Magician,” the devoutly faithful speaker of section one has given way to cynical speaker who has begun to question faith as an illusion. This section asks the question: in a closed system, can a life truly be resurrected, or is the hope an afterlife merely a clever illusion?


Portions of this document were previously published in Hunger Mountain- A Journal of the Arts, Five2One, Tinderbox. Calamus Journal, Public Pool, Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts, Cimarron Review. CDC Poetry Project, and Painted Bride Quarterly

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