The Surveyor's Perspective
thesisposted on 2016-06-21, 00:00 authored by Elizabeth A. McDermott
The Surveyor’s Perspective is a collection of lyric poetry informed by the professional act of surveying an altering landscape, specifically one in the process of becoming less rural and more developed. Some of my poems question how tools such as language and a camera can be used to determine if a ruined farmhouse or its support structure contributes to the cultural heritage of a place. I reveal the pathos in what is intended to be an objective perspective by prolonging what’s fleeting in the landscape, emphasizing the poetic imagination’s ability to frame these phenomena in time. My emphasis on the imagination leads to the prevalence of similes and metaphors in poems that argue that perspective is necessarily subjective: in contrast to a single, final perspective, my speakers have parameters, or limitations, to their perspectives. In turn, they attempt to get into the sensibility of the human or animal other by overlapping their own perspectives with outside knowledge—whether historical, scientific, or even imagined. The parameters to my speakers’ perspectives are also evident in poems that home in on visual objects—already existing representations in everyday photographs or, in more explicitly ekphrastic poems, masterful works of art. But instead of only reading the visual, my speakers attempt to expand the compression of a painting, for example, by considering the processes of construction or imagining the psychology of the artist. In The Surveyor’s Perspective, I’m not only drawing attention to the distinction between natural and artificial—i.e. the synecdochic ruin that may or may not be an objet d’art—but also the time and distance between a viewer and the artistic process. I overlap my speakers’ perspectives with what someone or something else thought or did in order to make an argument that perspective is both supported with detail and contextually grounded.