Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Advisor/Committee Chair

Eric Keenaghan

Committee Member

Charles Shepherdson


As we face the end of the post-modern world at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the preceding decades of postmodernity can be seen to have led to a widespread underappreciation of reading and writing poetry in general. If we want to say that poetry is necessary in the world, how should literary scholars and writers defend its value? The value of reading and writing poetry owes to its socio-political efficacy. This research will highlight how poetry can be political through exploring the works of three documentary poets: Muriel Rukeyser, C.D. Wright, and Claudia Rankine. The goal is to refute the popular denunciation of documentary poetry that it is simply the mimesis of the real world. This common rejection is derived from a reductive view of its characteristic reproduction of documents or statements not produced by the poet. Drawing upon the idea of the imagination that William Carlos Williams conceptualizes in Spring and All and his documentary poetics in Paterson, this thesis will argue that the three poets’ works are located in the tradition of his poetics. Exploring that tradition, this thesis will underline how poetry can be political and how it can collaborate with other media. Through showing how documents and lyrics provide poetic sources of imagination while collaborating with photography and film, this research highlights the socio-political impacts that documentary poetry has.