My thesis examines the connection between scripture and contemporary American poetry. Scripture is inherently poetic, employing devices that require analysis and explication. Poets drawing from scriptural text for narrative, language, or form are not looking to replace scripture, or even enhance it. Poets create new experiences in language, and their writing can illuminate the poetics of scripture. My thesis will examine work by three contemporary poets who have imitated, alluded to, and re-created scripture: Jacqueline Osherow's "Scattered Psalms" from 1999 collection Dead Men's Praise; Louise Glück's 1992 Pulitzer Prize-winning collection The Wild Iris; and Morri Creech's "The Testament of Judas" from his 2001 collection Paper Cathedrals. Each of these texts investigates the metaphor "Man is like God"—a metaphor which Allen Grossman argues is the most important in Western civilization—from a unique and yet scripturally archival point of view. At the same time, each features a strong individual speaker, one of the hallmarks of contemporary poetry. Osherow identifies the speaker of her psalms as a version of herself, explicitly personalizing her poetry. Glück's speaker is isolated, and is defined as she speaks to both God and her garden but is heard by neither. Creech's Judas is concerned solely with his personal experience with and understanding of Jesus. Emphasizing the individual makes poetry a personal rather than shared experience. It becomes the individual speaker's responsibility to establish his/her relationship with God based on how they perceive God and how they represent him through language.



College and Department

Humanities; English



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poetry, contemporary, American, devotional, Osherow, Creech, Gluck