The Observances (new poems) and Observations of Walks by the Sea

Miller, Katherine. 2012. The Observances (new poems) and Observations of Walks by the Sea. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text ( The Observances (new poems) and Observations of Walks by the Sea )
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Abstract or Description

The thesis presents in Part One forty-three new poems that exercise and foreground the visual, and in Part Two, a study of the determining work of the eye by three modern American poets recounting walks by the sea. Common to both parts are insights into the writer’s absorption with her/his experience of place and the passing of time.

Because it daily changes state, the beach is to writers a location that heightens detachment and renders perceptions of the familiar doubtful. The extent to which vision dominates or yields to an underlying response to place, is considered in the Introduction and developed in Chapters One and Two, close readings of texts by A. R. Ammons and Elizabeth Bishop. The case studies trace poems’ inception and process within the context of the poets’ aesthetic and practical concerns. Chapter Three contrasts their modes of representing what is immediate or invisible by comparison with Jorie Graham, whose work is influenced by her predecessors’ emphasis on attention and swerve to the metaphysical. These essays also reflect on criticism by scholars evaluating attempts to locate the lived experience, in work outside the ‘confessional’ mode. The Conclusion returns to questions of how a poem forms alongside day-to-day preoccupations.

Integral to the enquiry – and implicit in the work conducted in Part One – is the testing of when writing is ‘real enough’, neither too literal nor exalted. Comparisons are drawn between poets’ linguistic range and pace in transcribing physical immediacy or imaginatively reconstructing environment, aiming to maintain a poem in flux in order to convey a sense of place through which the mind moves. Part Two observes instances of change in receptivity at the boundary of the visible world and, as must happen in practice-based research, the creative work goes hand in hand with the commentary.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Additional Information:

Part one of this thesis has been redacted at the author's request.


poetry, close reading, american 20c, walking, vision and perception, levels of personal disclosure, miller, katherine

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

16 Jul 2012 10:21

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 08:33


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