Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
First Reader/Committee Chair
John Chad Sweeney
The speaker of The Desert Survival Guide is seeking to reconcile his own disconnection, from the natural world, the cosmos, his family, and from his sense of his own humanity. The poems in The Desert Survival Guide are a healing ceremony, to come to a place of acceptance regarding the loss of my father. The semi-autobiographical speaker of these poems has lost the immediate physical presence of his father in his life but still retains a deep memory imprint of the father and an unresolved need to process the absence of the father. He is gradually establishing a new connection to the land on which his father lived out his life and was buried. Impressions of his father bloom out from the geologic features of the landscape, the natural flora and fauna, all a realm of immediate waking dream.
The speaker is something of an Orphean Shaman; he wanders the landscape howling his pain and loss, his love, his passions, as Orpheus did his songs. He seeks to pierce through the veil of death in order to reconcile the loss of his loved ones; he seeks to go beyond the human created world into the mystic experience of the desert through the power of utterance and by honoring virile animal familiars. He journey’s to the beyond, for much the same purposes as the shaman, a purpose common to poets, mystics, and scientists, to see beyond immediate knowing. He follows the most primal of human directives, the need to understand and communicate the experiences of his life which have struck him with great intensity.
Holt, Elisha P., "The Secret Language of the Desert: Poetry, Loss, and Awakening" (2015). Electronic Theses, Projects, and Dissertations. 199.