Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
I find myself returning to a line in Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem “Returning the Borrowed Road,” where the speaker says, “You said, Get away / from the poem. You’re too close.” Komunyakaa is talking about a kind of closeness that breeds blindness in the poet and invisibility in the poem. This same closeness does not just apply to the poet/poem relationship, but also to other relationships, including our relationships with other people and our relationship to what we know. For example, one can hold so closely to what they know that it becomes a sort of reflex. Or one becomes close with another person – so close that that person (lover, friend, or even stranger) becomes partially visible, or invisible, in the sense that we hold what we think we know about them too closely even though they are constantly evolving as a person, or they may not even fit the prescribed mold/stereotype we have given them in our minds. We might do better to hold them in our arms and with our hands first. And what about our relationship to language? Words hold so much emotional, intellectual, and psychic baggage in their bodies. But that weight is ours as well, whether we realize it or not, when we use words. To take ownership of – to own-in on – that weight is our collective responsibility. “May not be blue, know a thing” aims to address these concerns regarding relationships.
In terms of the photographs included in my thesis, I think of Luce Irigaray, who poses this challenge: “to make ‘visible,’ by an effect of playful repetition, what was supposed to remain invisible: the cover-up of a possible operation of the feminine language….One must assume the feminine role deliberately, which means already to convert a form of subordination into an affirmation…” Through these photographs, my hope is to add another sensory element to make visible (and tangible) the ethos of the characters in the story. Keeping Irigaray in mind, I also want to present silence’s – especially feminine silence’s – potential for affirmation (as opposed to subordination). On the flip side, loquacity and playfulness also possess the potential for affirmation. My aim is that these characters affirm each other, that their playfulness is meaningful, and that their ventriloquisms and quips are not just a show, but a way of being in the world that allows them not just to survive, but to thrive.
I consider “May not be blue, know a thing” to be a novella in verse and photographs where the verse serves as a collective voice that all of the characters throw among themselves, the narrative witnesses the characters in motion, and the photographs offer a tonal vantage point external to the characters. These forms create a collage of being, where the characters constantly revise their positions in terms of their articulation.
Paffenhöfer, Claire Marie, "May Not Be Blue, Know a Thing" (2014). English Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 1.