Amy Leigh Wicks

While my poems explored identity and place, my critical thesis focused on J.K. Baxter and how to write with authenticity as a poet.

PhD awarded 2018

Amy Leigh is a poet from New York City. She holds her MFA in poetry from The New School (2014) and her B.A. in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from the The King's College (2009). She is the author of Orange Juice and Rooftops (Eloquent Press, 2009) and a few chapbooks, and her poems have appeared on The Best American Poetry blog. She served as a poetry editor for NYSAI Literary Magazine and writing instructor before moving to Wellington with her husband to undertake her PhD at IIML. Her poetry collection The Dangerous Country of Love and Marriage was published by Auckland University Press in 2019.

Amy Leigh was interested in the intersection of Confessional poetry of the 1960s and the Transcendental movement of the early 19th century. Her findings were presented in a critical confessional mode, tracing personal literary and spiritual history (where they intersected), and shifting to register the profound effect of her engagement with New Zealand poet James K. Baxter. Her collection of poetry sought to apply the research that Baxter's work exemplifies.

The challenge of this personal research framework was to maintain the integrity of attention to a life while honestly reflecting on new findings in a way that was compelling intellectually and aesthetically.

Much of the research related to a highly specific body of information acquired over time, and because each new text built on knowledge acquired in a non-standardized way, the personal and impersonal created a network of information that depended on one another to exist.

Amy Leigh moved through the research in an explicitly autobiographical literary mode, because 'qualitative writing becomes very much an unfolding story in which the writer gradually makes sense, not only of her data, but of the total experience of which it is an artefact' (Richardson and St Pierre).

The poems were ordered autobiographically to mimic the progression of events and narratives as they occurred. The poems sought to embody a juxtaposition of immediacy and endurance. Many of the poems also responded to Baxter's poems. His religious faith is inseparable from his work, and his confessional writing, while admittedly transgressive, is also full of awe and vulnerability concerning intimate relations, marriage, and love.

Near the end of her PhD, Amy wrote, 'The balance feels impossible to master, and when the uncomfortable tension of living, as Baxter describes, "on the rack of the middle world," is overwhelming, I find shelter in form; employing villanelles, sestinas, haiku, and sonnets, in order to maintain tension with the support of constraints.'

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