|dc.description.abstract||This creative/critical PhD examines the work of lesbian poets from Ireland and Aotearoa/New Zealand in order to demonstrate the creative energy made possible by their shared experience of and response to shame.
The creative part of the PhD comprises a poetry collection, Small Town Quare, and a solo piece of poet’s theatre, Catlicks. In these creative works, I reflect on and respond to my own experiences of shame as an Irish-New Zealand lesbian poet.
The critical part of the thesis pinpoints how four other lesbian poets, two each from Ireland and Aotearoa/New Zealand, explore and respond to shame in their work. I argue against universalist readings of their poetry and, instead, show the importance of attending to their particular lesbian experiences of and responses to shame. While Mary Dorcey’s work has been read in universalizing ways, I show how she writes against normative notions of the lyric tradition and strives to find a place for her antinormative desires in poetry. Her poetry is therefore most fruitfully read for its engagement with the particularities of lesbian experience, including those of shame. Similarly, I read Heather McPherson’s poetry for the experience of shame that hides under the cover of her rage, which is politicised by her lesbian feminist reorientation and bolstered by a community of like-minded women. In reading Cherry Smyth’s poetry, I show how experiences of shame in her work extend beyond her sexuality and intertwine with questions of home and identity that emerge from her Northern Irish upbringing and diasporic life in England. Rhian Gallagher’s lesbian love poems cascade over the boundaries of private and public spheres to show how environment structures intimacy through the revealing and concealing poetics of shame. Finally, the exegesis explores how my own creative practice builds on and responds to the work of these four poets. In the exegesis, I break down the processes of my one-woman show Catlicks and full-length poetry collection Small Town Quare to show how shame intercepts and invigorates my creative process.
The creative/critical structure of this PhD is intended to interconnect the personal and creative elements of shame to show how it manifests in the lives and poetry of lesbian women.||