"Imperfect Map of Griefland"

Koester, Anita Olivia, Creative Writing - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Nystrom, Debra, Creative Writing, University of Virginia
Petrosino, Kiki, Creative Writing, University of Virginia
Spaar, Lisa Russ, Creative Writing, University of Virginia
Dove, Rita, Creative Writing, University of Virginia

Imperfect Map of Griefland is a manuscript of lyric poems that explores childhood grief and trauma through the metaphorical action of mapping grief, where the body and memory are territories to be mapped. Many of the poems are addressed specifically to the speaker’s father who was imprisoned during her childhood and therefore absent from her life until his release, after which he was killed in a car accident. These poems navigate that loss and the way grief becomes embedded in the body. Through formal considerations: couplets, repetition, fragmentation, litany, elegy, sonnets crowns, ghazals, ekphrasis, and the archive, these poems act as incantations, bringing the bodies and spirits of dead to the page.

This journey towards healing leads to magical thinking and the imaginative transformation of this grief through art and language. At the heart of this quest are questions, doubts, silences, absences, and a search for truth, love, and healing. This manuscript is inspired by Adrienne Rich’s poem “Diving into the Wreck,” specifically the lines, “I came to explore the wreck. / The words are purposes. / The words are maps. / I came to see the damage that was done / and the treasures that prevail.” The poems circle literal and emotional wreckage in their attempt to reconcile and recover. Divided across five sections these poems are steeped in images of shadows, prisons, boxes, bodily terrain, dream worlds, maps, portents, mirrors, labyrinths, keys, locks, collisions, ruptures, windows, ghosts, masks, and cages.

While these poems are deeply haunted, what emerges by the end of this manuscript is the will to survive and continue to embrace living even amid the dead.

MFA (Master of Fine Arts)
Elegy, Grief, Poetry, Loss, Fathers, Daughters, Lyric, Death, Cartography
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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