John Martin

laughing through grad school
(academic stuff) (hints of life beyond
school and work)
(Flying Moose videos, photos, stories, etc.) (observations)

Blossoms: How I Invented the Swivel Chair

by John Martin,
from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire,
approved August 1999,
under the Supervision of Professor Bruce Taylor.

download the poems! (82K PDF)

This is a creative thesis — a collection of original work of poetry. The question where do poems come from? is one which is frequently asked of poets. This document is the culmination of tremendous thought and energy spent exploring and demonstrating answers to that question. It does so by rephrasing the mammoth question into three more manageable questions of why, how, and what I write — and in doing so, outlines my personal philosophy of poetry.

The introduction begins with the question why. It briefly touches on introspection, the process of looking to the self in which many poets find themselves engaged. Clearly, the why is the seed or impetus to writing. Feelings and impulses collect in my head. When they come out onto the paper, I feel the need to make sense out of them. This leads to the second section — the how of the writing process. In this section, I reflect on the training and skill building involved in writing: the exercises, the form work, and the ear-training of rhythm and sound. Here, I also discuss poetic influences — poets I have stolen from, and poets whose influences come through more subtly in my poems. In addition, the section talks about my ecological philosophy and its influence on my poetry. The third major section of the introduction examines the what of my poetry. In this section, I argue the Modernist view that a poem may have many valid meanings depending on the reader/interpreter. I point out that there is no one meaning to my poems, that I write only of my experiences, dreams, relationships with others and myself, and of the whirlwind of angst and contentment that they bring. I conclude the introduction as I do many of my poems, with no conclusion, but perhaps the hint of a feeling. It is, I argue, enough.

In the collection of poetry — the main section of this creative thesis — I have assembled a fairly even mix of new and old poetry. Every poem included is fictional, although it is based on truth with a lowercase “t” which I flip on and off with sacred and self-protective irreverence. I get serious at times and write from an instinctive need that I find difficult to understand and talk about. There are no poems included that have not been workshopped by my peers. There are poems which some like and others hate, and poems which some feel are too cute and others feel are too crude. It is precisely these reactions from a variety of respected readers that have confirmed and reconfirmed my belief that every poem will have its opponents. We all have our interpretations and values, and while some poems and poets are generally held in more esteem than others, consensus is rare; seldom can we agree with each other about anything.

As I review my academic career, I recognize that I have always gravitated toward communication. My first degree was a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Communication, the second in English with an emphasis in technical writing, and my minor (one class away from a third degree) was Art. I took up writing my third year at Eau Claire, wrote terribly, became hooked, and improved. After working two years in Minneapolis on technical documentation, I returned to Eau Claire for a Master's degree to explore the creative side of writing in order to communicate more mysteriously than technical communication encouraged. Poetry quickly surfaced as my medium of choice.

I have since taken as many writing classes as allowed within the program, been integrally involved in other writing classes, and an essential member in a number of student writing groups. I have also benefited from many academic and extracurricular readings and discussions of the works of others, both local and internationally famous. Finally, I have been able to participate in readings at the University, in the local community, and in Minneapolis and New York. These classes and activities, and the patience of their participants, have positively affected my writing skills and knowledge.