Every week we will be posting faculty statements and photos from this year’s MFA/MA Graduation Celebration.
Faith Hale, Thesis Director: Kathy Walkup
Having Faith Hale here has been like a gift to the Book Art Program. Her consistently positive outlook and her dedication and love for her chosen fields have spread through the studios like an unavoidable whirlwind, one that brings nothing but energy and promise in its wake. She has combined her love for lists, for documentation, for libraries and for poetry in written and visual work that explores the persistence of domestic tropes. She brought a deep knowledge of binding and conservation to the program, and has shared that knowledge through her extraordinary work and patience with our beginning students as a TA. In her spare time she has created the Book Art Weekly, a combination of information, encouragement and the best kind of cheerleading. Faith, whatever you decide to do next, I know you will do it with grace, ebullience, optimism and an unstoppable talent.
Margaret Karr, Thesis Director: Kirsten Saxton
“John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara: Painterly Gesture and Poetic Truth”
Maggie’s paper innovatively explores how the work of poets John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara merge, and thus complicate, opposite visions of 1950s America—consumer culture and the counterculture—to pose the question: what happens when the avant-garde becomes a mainstream preoccupation? The paper examines how Ashbery’s and O’Hara’s collaborative, interdisciplinary poetic impulses refuse easy categorical oppositions—aesthetic, material, or social, and argues that it is through the contacts forged between categories (high and low culture, hipsters and suits, black and white), that these artists stumble upon what the paper provocatively terms, “poetic truth.” Maggie contends it was Ashbery’s and O’Hare’s refusal of the critical trend to define disciplinary aesthetic categories of visual art and poetry as excusive that enlivened their work and that it is through the process itself of exploring cultural intersections underpinning their work that O’Hara and Ashbery confront “poetic truth,” for both the poet and the reader.
Margaret Miller, Thesis Director: Patricia Powell
Margaret Miller is a writer’s writer. She loves language, loves how words sound and look on the page, and will spend hours poring over each line, tweaking it again and again until the prose is like razor. She has a story to tell, but that’s just one small part, she has a pure vision, and doesn’t always follow the conventional mold. Her novel, The Geography of Half of Our Lies is about a young girl who cannot bear the devastation of losing her grandfather who dies suddenly of a heart attack. Unable to part ways with this man who has raised her since childhood, she escapes with his ashes at the funeral creating pandemonium in her wake. Rich and engaging and full of humor, Geography of Half Our Lives is a gorgeous meditation on bodies, how we live inside them, how we move through the world with them, how others try to control them, how we resist, and how we preserve them.
Unique Robinson, Thesis Director: Elmaz Abinader
Unique Robinson landed on Mills like a 757—they came in flamboyant, loud, smart, and in charge, but as soon as they sat down in class, laid out their writing, offered their ideas and interpretations, the jig was up. Under the ball cap and jacket are the pushed together brows, the thinking, the calculating and the testifying. And then the writing, In the thesis, Four Wings & A Prayer: A Chocolate City Churn, Unique’s poems lay down the maps of family history full of loving grandmothers and difficult uncles, their own growth, the pushing of the body and against the characters of the neighborhood. That same neighborhood in the aging old lady of Baltimore—losing its body parts and its people, shifting culture and violating legacies. Shifts, not only in the terrain, but also in the culture of the poems, first narrative and later percussive, getting louder and louder to the finale in Oakland. Where Unique is uni mical, mc, dude and poet strong.