Famous last words
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] This dissertation consists of a book-length collection of poems entitled Famous Last Words and a critical essay examining the development of an "American voice" in 20th century poetry, particularly the ways that this voice allowed its writers to access and represent parts of American life hitherto unexamined in verse. The poems in the collection work to engage with the contemporary mythology that romanticizes and subsequently distorts American regions (the West) and concepts (small-town life, the countryside). One of the central goals of the manuscript is to explore the disconnect between the American landscape and our perceptions of it, as well as the ways that the mythologies that we have created shape and wield power over our lives. The collection is comprised of three sections, each of which explores ideas of mortality alongside these examinations of America. The first section is a series of love poems written to abstractions and other non-human entities (such as fear, longing, sinister moments, and doo-wop). The second section consists of lyrics addressing ideas of aging and loss, often through the lens of an America both romanticized and critiqued. The final section draws imaginatively from the last words of historical and cultural figures.
Access is limited to the campus of the University of Missouri-Columbia.