"Feastless Days"

Gottschlich, Michelle, Creative Writing - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Petrosino, Kiki, AS-Creative Writing, University of Virginia
Nystrom, Debra, AS-Creative Writing, University of Virginia
Teare, Brian, AS-Creative Writing, University of Virginia

Feastless Days is a manuscript of lyric poems that meditates on the conflicts between daughterhood and motherhood, love and self-possession, class and self-sufficiency, intergenerational trauma and the enduring strength of blood ties. Set in the industrial Midwest along the steel belt of Northwestern Indiana, these poems explore the speaker's relationship with place, class, and the hard yet resilient women who raised her: "When it rains / every bone comes out of the ground. My mother doesn't mind. / She wakes at five and lifts the deadweight sun." These poems represent a range of forms and tonal registers, including erasures of local newspapers, dreamy girlhood fantasies, and bald retellings of family and personal histories. The manuscript also grapples with Catholicism, addiction, and forms of gender violence that are hyper-present in white working-class communities: "You remember him red and sun-sick after laying concrete. A sunken ship in the TV light. / Half-safe then: your blitzed colossus with the Nazi eye. Your father, the half-dead alcoholic." In these poems, closeness represents both safety and danger: how intergenerational trauma echoes in an intergenerational home, how we bear intimate witness to our family's lives, how we depend on their survival for our own; and how we both yearn for love and fear it. Is self-possession possible for the poor; is it possible for mothers; is it possible for women; is it possible in love? Should it be? These are, perhaps, the central questions of Feastless Days, which stares unflinchingly into the speaker’s past, and finds what bore her—lovingly, impossibly, and exhausted— into adulthood.

MFA (Master of Fine Arts)
Midwest poetry, Womanhood, Working class, Indiana, Steel mills, Adolescence, Catholicism, Erasure poetry, Addiction, Intergenerational trauma, Love, Alice Gray
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