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Melissa untitled




Hohl, Melissa, author
Steensen, Sasha, advisor
Cooperman, Matthew, committee member
Moseman, Eleanor, committee member

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The poems in Melissa untitled investigate the name and the act of naming as they relate to identity and imagination. The name is an indicator of the person or the place, of course. Further, though, the name constitutes a part of the individual (person or place), for the name can stimulate one to conjure (or can help one in conjuring) an image of (and thought about and feeling towards) the individual. Thus, the name informs image, thought, and feeling (in both 'reality' and the imagination). How far can one write into, and out of, the name? The name, then, is a threshold of public and private space, of inside and outside; it is permeable and a place of division within the language of proximity, of togetherness. However, the name is not foolproof; indeed, it falls short. It does so because it is permeable. That which is permeable is by definition not fixed, not stable. The poems in Melissa untitled reflect this instability through and throughout their language. In the writing process, many poems let mistakes lead them. What I mean by this is, for example, in the second poem in the collection, "A deep sunflower god-yellow," the final line reads, "all of them were god" (4). In fact, what the poet actually intended to write was, "all of them were good," but because she forgot the extra "o" that is necessary to make "good," she was left with "god"—and she liked it. There's something a little bit off balance, both in the head and off the tongue, when one reads the final two lines of that poem—"The first and last 25 minutes of my life / all of them were god" (4). One can feel the tongue being pulled towards "god" and "good" at once. This is a kind of confrontation one must have with the language and oneself in Melissa untitled. It’s familiar in a strange way. The form of many of the poems echoes an off-balance-ness as they work with atypical—albeit organic unto themselves—stanza shapes. They also play with and perhaps even agitate the space on the page. They do this in part to call attention to movement as part of the modern landscape, which therefore makes it a part of the modern identity. The poems disorient to reorient. Moreover, the fragmentation (of thought, of distance) that occurs between stanzas and in some cases from line to line is, I suspect, a way of evoking imbalance and perhaps revealing it as a place of potential fertility. Whether the speaker in the poems is navigating a physical, linguistic, or psychological landscape—real or imagined—it is helpful to have at hand the four-pointed star to indicate and remind the wanderer of the four cardinal directions. The four cardinal directions act as a reminder of intention amid imagination. In Melissa untitled, the four-pointed star signifies a break—a breath—in the text.


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