Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Mary Carroll-Hackett, MFA

Second Advisor

David Magill,PhD

Third Advisor

Craig Challander, PhD


Semein Washington. OH SINNERMAN, WHERE YOU GONNA RUN TO? (Under the direction of Mary Carroll Hackett, MFA) Department of English and Modern Language, April 2016.

The purpose of this thesis is to examine the growth of personal identity via poetry. “Oh Sinnerman,” is a run of thirty-eight poems in which the speaker learns survival through experience, and the underpinning ideas, whether traditional or modern, for which life is preserved. In theme, the poems tend to separate his experience into personal and social humanity. In poems such as “No Good Being,” “Sunday Tennis” and “How One Loves,” personal humanity shows through the speaker’s experience. He learns that people can harm, they destroy life or take joy in breaking an object, or they can care for each other and their surroundings. Ultimately, for the speaker, it is easier to survive by preserving rituals, exploration, the sharing of food and the sports event, and to care for others. Social humanity is the topic of other poems ranging from “Instead of Cruelty” to “Risking Their Bodies For Once.” The speaker engages here with what he learns about the wider world.In the former poem, Chicago’s high murder rate appears as only a newspaper article in a Virginia barbershop. An old man laments violence and the speaker learns cruelty can only be experienced not related. In the later poem, the speaker considers how and why human migrates and whether that relates to life’s constant need to move. The poems in this thesis work on a steady rhythm, using anapests and iambs, as the speaker, like a wandering traveler, discovers that harm is a part of human nature and strives to define what it means to do good.



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