Date of Award

5-1996

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Departmental Honors

Department

English

First Advisor

Kenneth W. Brewer

Abstract

This thesis project explores. in poetry, the effects of atomic testing and unrestrained pesticide use on the people who lived in or near Utah in the fifties and sixties.

Nuclear testing began in Nevada in 1951, the year I was born in south-east Idaho, where my family lived under radiation tainted clouds for a decade along with the Utah downwinders. My father died of lung cancer caused from breathing pesticide-laden air in 1962, the year Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring. These two dates stand out in my mind as important markers in my quest to discover why I think and act the way I do now.

I was taught to respect and never question authority. I found in my research that this unquestioning obedience to the rules of church and government has always been prevalent in Utah society. It seems that women are most oppressed because their behavior is strictly enforced by the men who dominate their lives.

I go back in my writing to the fifties, when fear of foreign powers was intense. and our trust was misplaced. I go back to the sixties, when trust and fear took on new dimensions. And I come out in the nineties, in a new world that is not so new, but is one that I understand better for having gone back and answered the questions I should have asked years ago.

I begin my poetry selections with "Cooked," which sets the scene for the atomic age of unwarranted trust. "Wild Turkeys" is next. and brings us up to date on the old pesticide story. "Examinations. Human Kind," explores the question of human survival from the standpoint of a leftover down winder, and "Rock Chucks, Birds, and Lizards" takes a more universal view. this time of chemical effects on other creatures in the environment. "The Cellar" is a saga that goes back to what some congressmen have recently been calling "the good old days of family values." and "Caesarean" encompasses the modern view of the old issues that are still affecting our lives today.

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