Semester of Graduation
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Heirlooms is a collection of poems, which traces a fictionalized version of my own history of mental illness, domestic violence, and familial childhood trauma. At the epicenter of each poem is a television screen, which continuously reflects a scene of domestic violence from the kitchen. The glare on this television pursues the narrator across all periods of his life and through all reconfigurations of the living room furniture. There is no angle the television can be placed in that does not catch the kitchen light and reflect back that traumatic image from childhood.
The work recalls Stein’s Tender Buttons in the way that the languages and images are cubist. The inherent subjectivity of the words, lines, and syntax in these poems vector and refract into new meanings when read in different time and at different angles. The enjambment of the lines is tenuously suggested through the breakage of language and the leaking of meaning left over after the full stops at the ends of each line.
Heirlooms is a work of failings. Where the narrator suggests his failure to have become anything separate from this childhood trauma, the lines and language themselves share in this failure. The poetics represents a poetic language that, in some light, appears harmless and in others suddenly turns violent and dangerous.
The work does not necessarily begin, move, nor end in any discernable or distinctive way. Instead, the memory sticks within each poem and becomes a fluid aspect of the work’s consciousness—in the same way that there is no permanent erasure or healing or discernable progression in my own mental illness and trauma. Heirlooms is something we learn to live with.
Viau, Stephan Antoine, "Heirlooms: A Poetic Exploration of Inherited Mental Illness, Language, and Domestic Violence" (2020). LSU Master's Theses. 5100.
Available for download on Monday, March 15, 2027