Honors Program

Midway Honors

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Jesse K. Graves

Thesis Professor Department

Literature and Language

Thesis Reader(s)

Ted Olson, Michael Cody, Thomas Alan Holmes


This creative thesis is a collection of poems which represent a necessary journey to reconcile my relationship with the people, places, and values of Southern Appalachia, my home that is both stifling and liberating. Growing up in the Appalachian Mountains has influenced my character and my writing in ways that are far-reaching and constantly evolving. At different points in my life I have been equally enamored with the red dirt of my childhood and determined to dig my way out of its clutches. I have spread my wings in large cities and invariably found that I longed to get back to my roots. My experiences of mothering and of being someone’s wife, someone’s daughter, as well as my own self are all bound in my ongoing effort to reconcile my past with my present and to flesh out who I want to be among all I am expected to be. Within this juxtaposition I situate Down Elk: A collection of Poems – poems born not only of a childhood steeped in the love of family and secured in the tradition of growing up in the Appalachian South, but also of a life marked with great loss – too much, too soon – and finally, the ways in which all these experiences continue to shape how I now live and raise children in these mountains.

The critical introduction explores not only the personal investment I have in these poems, but also considers poets who have been influential to my perspective, like Mary Karr and Linda Parsons Marion, as well as those with whom I share a common subject matter. This introduction also serves as a means of reflecting on my individual craft.

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
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