A Farewell Symphony

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Whitehead, Cheryl
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School of Letters Thesis 2011 , School of Letters, University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee , University of the South , MFA Thesis, Sewanee School of Letters , Poetry , Music , Alienation and exile , Farewell
A Farewell Symphony has four major themes which weave together like a kind of documentary symphony. The themes are: the writer’s family, her work as a public school teacher in inner city Miami, her relationship with a married woman and her life as an artist. The musicians, writers, filmmakers, and visual artists who have most inspired and influenced her act as central figures in the work. In the thesis, the characters live in various states of exile and experience both internal and external alienation. The characters speak directly to the reader in persona poems, yet in other poems they speak to each other, revealing their struggles through indirect characterization. The thesis, which is not divided into sections, allows the poems and characters to freely associate with each other. Highly formal poems written in blank verse, sonnet form, and villanelle form are juxtaposed with experimental and free verse forms. The title of the thesis is borrowed from Franz Josep. h Haydn’s Symphony Number Forty-Five. Haydn’s use of the term “farewell” was humorous; the court musicians at Esterhazy needed time off from their duties to visit their families; therefore, in the last movement of the symphony, Haydn orchestrated the ending so that the performers exited in pairs until the stage was empty. Conversely, in the thesis, the term “farewell” becomes elegiac.