Underground City

dc.contributor.advisorStreckfus, Peter
dc.contributor.authorSheffield, Tommy
dc.creatorSheffield, Tommy
dc.description.abstractUNDERGROUND CITY is a book of poetry about a number of people living in or around Harrisonburg, VA. Told from varying perspectives, but mostly focusing on the life of one James Miller, the book attempts a novelistic approach wherein characters and perspectives are linked together and fade from one to the next based on a sort of plot-based flow, but with ambiguous chronology and narration (it is often not clear who is speaking, at least at first). I had considered titling this book MEN OF HORROR, but I realized that it was more so about one man in particular than it was about men in gen-eral. That being said, much of what this collection focuses on is how men can become corrupted by drug use, violence, toxic love, poverty, trauma, etc. By examining this, I am attempting to highlight part of what haunts American culture today, and the toxic assumptions that Americans have that perpetuate these very problems rather than help-ing them. There is an underlying reading wherein this book, which is about a character named James, could be compared to the Book of James from the bible—but that con-nection is loose. More so I am attempting to take influence from books like Brief Inter-views with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace, dramatic monologue poems by Edgar Allan Poe, T.S. Elliot, John Berryman, and Robert Browning, as well as work by poets who have written about incarceration, such as Etheridge Knight and Reginald Dwayne Betts, to create a totally fictional book of poetry. The book begins at the end, with James Miller living as a homeless man in Har-risonburg, VA. Then, the rest of the book shows us James’s life and social circle, either directly or indirectly (for instance, it is not said but it is implied that Officer Wilmot may be the police officer who arrests James Miller in one or more of the situations in-volving arrest), and leads toward the final poem, which is in the voice of James Miller, after he has gone to prison. It is not clear when he goes to prison, or what happens after, but it is implied that eventually it results in him leading a homeless lifestyle. Who nar-rates the poem titled “Underground City” is never made clear, but he could either be a rat, or a burglar—either way, the perspective shown in “Underground City” is meant to represent a true evil, whereas, in contrast, the rest of the book argues that James’s evil is more complicated than that, and that much of what makes James “evil” is how society views him, not how he actually is. This calls into question assumptions about drug ad-diction, mental health, poverty, violence, and masculinity that still plague our country today.
dc.titleUnderground City
thesis.degree.disciplineCreative Writing
thesis.degree.grantorGeorge Mason University
thesis.degree.nameMaster of Fine Arts in Creative Writing


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