Melisa will be presenting her paper “Poetry as Change: Transforming Tragedy” in the Creative Nonfiction panel at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference: “Sustainability and the Humanities,” which will be held November 7-9 in Atlanta, GA.

Keynote speakers at the conference are Dr. Ursula K. Heise from UCLA and American novelist and essayist Wendell Berry. The Creative Nonfiction panel is chaired by Professor Susana Marcelo, M.A. Other panelists from California State University, Northridge are Jaclyn Hymes and Jenny Troy.

Abstract: “Poetry as Change: Transforming Tragedy” by Melisa Malvin-Middleton

As I reflect upon much of my poetry, I am aware there is often a common thread of trying to “make sense of the senseless.” In Gregory Orr’s Poetry As Survival, he asserts, “the personal lyric helps individual selves, both writers and readers, survive the vicissitudes of experience and the complexities and anguish of subjectivity and trauma” (8). In my poems, I often grapple with some form of grief or try to resolve a serious dilemma with no clear solution. Having been through a number of traumatic events, it is almost a compulsion for me to write about and express these feelings. In discussing his brother’s death, Orr confides, “once I have shared my secret, my sense of isolation and separateness has been subtly but deeply altered—I am no longer isolated (88). In part, I wish to touch another soul, in so that we both do not feel quite so alone in our grief. Sometimes I want to bring out in the open a situation that is not commonly discussed or understood. By telling my story or conveying my feelings through poetry, in part, I achieve a sense of control—from a tragedy that is so out of my control. In this creative nonfiction paper that is combined with literary analysis regarding poetics and grief, I will discuss that through poetry, using several of my poems as examples, I have developed a personal means of sustainability, empowering myself by writing or rewriting my life’s stories on my own terms.

For more information about the SAMLA Conference: