The poem as event: the development of a poetic style that uses the poem as a performative site of meaning in Thomas Kinsella's poetry, 1952-1979
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This thesis focuses on Thomas Kinsella's poetry between 1952 and 1979 and discovers a stylistic development which shows a distinctive way of dealing with the poetic subject. The poems move from a more formal style of lyric poetry to a novel method that engages with the poetic subject in a form that uses the poem as a site of interaction between the reader and the page; the poem as event. In the 1950s Kinsella is seen exploring his poetic subject and experimenting with binary ways of representing metaphysical ideas and romantic love. At this point Kinsella is seen effectively testing his poetic subject against rationalist ideas that tend to split identity through the binary opposition of the rational and the sensual. In the early 1960s Kinsella is still engaged with this pursuit but he begins to consciously deconstruct faulty binary ways of viewing the poetic subject. In particular, he finds the ideas of Christian dogma which split identity as untenable. These are important steps because they show Kinsella exploring the very essence of how the poetic subject is represented and the need for more inclusive forms. The late 1960s show Kinsella beginning a concerted effort at developing a style that is able to comprehensively represent the experiences of his subjects. He begins this by following the examples of the American confessional poets but then develops his own unique mythical and archetypal method. This continues and intensifies with Notes from the Land of the Dead (1972) as Kinsella attempts to record the psychic impressions of his protagonists. The poems also open up questions about the nature of memory and representation that are at the core of Kinsella's impetus for changing his style. It is in the collections One and Other Poems (1979) and Fifteen Dead (1979) that Kinsella's mature style is documented. By examining these poems and looking back at some of the earlier poetry then the stylistic change is exposed.