My Honors Thesis: A Collection of Poems

by Nathan Blansett, 19C
English and Creative Writing
Blansett Headshot

My honors thesis in creative writing is a collection of poems entitled Material. Material is primarily about sexuality and its interferences with artifice, knowledge, history, and the sensation of being differenced. Henri Cole has told us that the composition of poems comes out of the composition of lives. In the same way that Daniel Mendelsohn once described James Merrill as a poet who “became willing to grapple with things themselves, rather than the intellectualized or aestheticized symbols of things,” my book’s changing art reflects a changing life, as its youthful speaker moves from the abstract to the concrete, to the actual and real, the materiality of love and self-knowledge.

I am drawn to poems that are exercises in austerity and litheness; their conceit allows for my favorite potential feature of the lyric: secretiveness.

My time at the Fox Center has been germinal for the pruning, ordering, and completion of this project, particularly because it has prompted me to consider how my artistic—rather than critical—work can nonetheless engage with theory. Though my honors thesis is not a critical treatise, my body of work feels just as engaged with queer, literary, and art historical discourses. Art holds the ability not to confirm or ramify theory, but to revise, daringly modify, and expand it. Because the histories of my education and my more inward experience are inextricable from each other, it is important to me that I think critically about the book in terms of the history of gay art. I think that my work belongs to a highly sensitized, sublimated, and distant mode of gay art, registering the alienation that queerer behavior begets. My time at the Fox Center has also helped me work on newer, longer poems which I intend to include in a future permutation of the book.

Nathan Blansett is a senior at Emory majoring in English and Creative Writing. He is the recipient of a summer fellowship from the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell, a 2017-2018 Stipe Arts Fellowship, a Johnston Fellowship for Travel and Research in Austria, and an assistantship at the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. His honors thesis in creative writing, a collection of poems provisionally titled Germinal, centers on sexuality, desire, artifice, and history.

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