In all their various categories, the arts serve as the dominant subject matter of Gesamtkunstwerk and Other Trifles. The title itself begins with a German word-meld—gesamt (total) + kunstwerk (work of art). Thus a primary aim of these poems is to bring as many elements of art together as possible and to use their various forms (self-portraits, nocturnes, odes, etc.) as metaphorical frameworks that inform abstractions such as regret ("How to Draw Regret"), psychological disorders ("Insomnia Nocturnes") and confusion in how one should feel about living realities as opposed to inanimate objects ("Dead Starling"). Most of the poems that are not related in some way to the arts (other than their inseparable relation to the art of poetry itself) deal with death or some other form of loss. Some of them humorous ("Commencement Speech"), others poignant ("In Places Where We Store Our Deaths"), these poems ironically find their place as the "other trifles" of the work. The purpose of this somewhat irreverent categorization of death and tragedy is to create ironic commentaries on the triviality of humankind's grand designs and accomplishments and to show the many similarities shared by comedy and tragedy alike, a project Tony Hoagland took up in his first book of poems, Sweet Ruin. My aim in writing these poems is to better understand how various art forms relate to each other and how aligning those arts in poetry allows the various genres to be "in conversation" one with another. I hope that readers will come away with a better understanding of how art forms are interconnected, but at the same time, I always aim to construct my poems in such a way that multiple readings can occur.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Olthof, Derk A., "Gesamtkunstwerk and Other Trifles: Poems" (2011). All Theses and Dissertations. 3009.
music, art, gesamtkunstwerk, self-portraits, odes, poetry, comedy, tragedy, loss, irony, metaphor, Tony Hoagland, Sweet Ruin, conversation