All the salty sand in our mouths: A collection of original poetry

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Poetry collections dealing with disasters are rare, even though the world has encountered numerous catastrophes since the 20th century. This dissertation shows that poets writing about disasters often tend to glorify, trivialize, sensationalize, and exploit the disaster in ways that undermine their project. Drawing on these shortcomings, I explore the suitability of conventional elegiac forms to capture the enormity of contemporary disasters. The most successful way to writing the disaster, I argue, is to approach the project through a mixture of writing modes and angles such as elegizing, capturing the traumas, and employing witness, testimony, and documentation, as the disaster resists a singular way of mourning. In order to promote a novel way of capturing the disaster in poetry, I utilize my firsthand familiarity, survival experiences, and subsequent research into the 2004 Sri Lankan Tsunami. Staying authentic to experiences of the victims—including my own—the poetry component of the dissertation chronicles the tsunami and its aftermath, mainly from the point of view of a child. The consequences of the disaster are tracked as the traumatized child learns to live with his survival status and losses. Techniques such as postcard poems and poems based on interviews are used to show the extent to which the disaster has affected different individuals and entered the Sri Lankan consciousness irrevocably.

Embargo status: Restricted until 09/2172. To request the author grant access, click on the PDF link to the left.

Poetry, Disaster, Elegy