Semester of Graduation

Spring 2024


Master of Fine Arts (MFA)



Document Type



The poems collected in the MFA thesis Personal Injury explore grief, absence, and childhood illness. At six years old, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is also known as blood cancer. Reckoning with my mortality at such a young age kickstarted the desire to record and interpret chaotic life events through poetry. Organized in four distinct sections, Personal Injury charts how early experience with a deadly illness forever complicates a person’s relationship with their own body, mind, and sexuality. Arranged as a bildungsroman, my collection moves through childhood into adolescence and adulthood. I use a variety of approaches, including documentary poetics, field composition, and found forms, to interrogate these circumstances. As the speakers of the thesis evolve, so does the formal range of the poems. Erasures and found texts give way to sonnets, villanelles, dialogues, and a hybrid glossary poem. The range of ills interrogated also widens to include not just leukemia but clinical depression, self-harm, survivor’s guilt and more. As a poet who wishes to contribute fresh and substantive poetry to the field of creative writing on illness, I push against trauma-mining cliché by substituting and reanimating generic terms with a new slant. Blood cancer becomes “trouble in the blood.” The depressed person wakes to meet the day but only sees “gun / -metal damp.” It all amounts to a broader plea with the audience to take the text at face-value. This is not just metaphor—it is personal. This work owes a debt to formally inventive poets like Claudia Rankine (Don’t Let Me Be Lonely) and C.A. Conrad (The Book of Frank), Li-Young Lee’s childhood mythologizing power in his debut Rose, and the no-frills candor of Shira Erlichman’s Odes to Lithium.



Committee Chair

Jennifer Davis

Available for download on Wednesday, April 09, 2031

Included in

Poetry Commons