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AbstractAll of the poems in this collection are ones written during the author’s time as a graduate student at Brockport. The thesis itself is comprised of three sections- "Shadow Stories," "Sex and Other Destructions," and "Back Roads" --each of which is located in between single poems that serve as transitional pieces from one section to the other. The first section is a collection of poems that are intentionally disorienting and often dark; these poems also, more often than not, rely more on sound and images to experience relating to human sexuality that transcends that with which many people are familiar. A subject of discussion that has frequently come up in these conversations is the challenge of conceiving of oneself as a sexual being in a way that is unflinchingly authentic, despite and because of one's experiences outside of the norm. These poems attempt to give a voice to this challenge, while neither simplifying the complexity of this process nor pretending to speak for all people who go through it. The "I" and "she" that appear in these poems encompass a broad-but by no means all-inclusive-spectrum of women who have, in a variety of ways, experienced prolonged exposure to the overlap between sex and pain. The opening poem within the second section, "Locked and Listening," contains many of the elements that were present in the first section of the collection: I wrote this with a strong emphasis on sound and image, and readers will need to rely upon their intuition to develop any concrete relationship to and interpretation of these images. As the section continues, however, the poems become increasingly more concrete, bordering on a narrative-like quality that aims to make the tension between sex and destruction-and between connection and separation-more accessible to readers. The third and final section is in many ways the most intimate. Although it does contain poems that explore subjects such as addiction, loss, and murder, it does so in a way that exhibits greater tenderness than most of the poems in the previous two sections. There is a collection of character sketches offered in poems such as "Tension," "Subtle Shift," and "Johnny Gone South"; a collection of poems that explore themes of drugs and addiction such as "Cracked," "Twelve Lies: Reader Response," "Enchanted Hills, Indiana: August 25, 2014," and (once again) "Johnny Gone South"; and many others that simply explore moments and experiences of tenderness in the midst of life's struggles. The cumulative result is a collection of poems that carries readers from an origin of disorientation, fear, and confusion; through a period of depravity, pain, and perversion; before finally landing at a place of radical acceptance of things as they are-in other words, a quality of peace that is devoid of denial. I am-and therefore my poems are- completely uninterested in blind optimism, serenity that lacks depth, or cheeriness that avoids at all costs the discomfort caused by looking into shadows: what fascinates me is the quality of equanimity that has borne witness to cruelty without losing the ability for compassion. I am interested in the gifts that suffering brings us: the beauty within violence, the resilience that grows from despair, the love that has survived unspeakable events.
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