The Voice of the American Female Poet: Tradition and Innovation



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The subject of my thesis involves the art of imitation: a practice that has spanned over two millennia. Imitation was originally used as a pedagogical practice for early Roman writers and continued as a central part of education until the twentieth-century. While male writers have historically dominated the poetic tradition, I found that the art of imitation opened the door to a world of female poets and their individual styles. In this thesis, I create and develop through imitation a line of influence that is more relevant to my own background. Consequently, I imitate the styles of six American female poets who attended women’s colleges, universities, or seminaries spanning from 1800 to 2016. These poets are Emily Dickinson, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, and Rebecca Morgan Frank. Through the analysis of these writers’ poetry, I identify key components of their poetic styles and write in each of their styles in turn. This thesis also includes poems written in various forms, including sestinas, villanelles and a variety of meters and rhyme schemes. There are also recurring motifs throughout the collection, including those of mental illness, movement, femininity, nature, and memory. The final section of the collection consists of original poems that demonstrate where I am in my own poetic journey as I seek to join into this lineage of female poets.



poetry, feminist works, women's colleges, mental health, nature