Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Ruth Ellen Kocher

Second Advisor

Noah Eli Gordon

Third Advisor

Paul Youngquist


In a project with roots in love, family and home, What Softening examines the domestic space through a nontraditional masculinity which considers the home sacred in all its imperfections and grotesqueries; these poems seek to accept its messiness as harmony. They attempt to pluralize the "I" while fortifying its sense of individuality—"you" shapes “I” as much as "I" shapes "I." "We" is inevitable in these poems, and it is the exploration of this inevitable that brings to surface tensions between domestic frustrations and solaces, that imminent mess. Home in these poems becomes unhomely, unsettled despite its visages of comfort and conclusion. Identifying itself within the folds of masculinity, the voice in these poems seeks to deconstruct what he views destructively normalized; He is a masculinity in revision, looking backward at his family history and forward to his own future with his domestic partner, all under the threat of illness and disease; He takes ownership of the domestic space but does not seek to dominate it. These poems honor the gaps and fissures of communication, what is lost by force or forgetfulness or omission, what is agreeably interrupted by the presence of a significant "other" at home.