Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts



First Advisor

Mary Swander


The Lightning Came Closer is a poet/anthropologist's understanding of and mediation upon human origins, our evolutionary history, and ultimately, what it means to be human in a world of rampant human population growth and extreme resource use that are placing threatening pressures on other species. As both a scientist and artist, I explore the intersections of human and non-human primates specifically, and question the ethics involved in this relationship as the habitat of species across the globe are rapidly shrinking. The savanna chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) of southeastern, Senegal, a major subject of this collection, are threatened not only by human encroachment on habitat, but also by large scale gold and iron mining. What are our ethical obligations to these incredibly intelligent primates, our closest living relatives? What will it mean to be human if they go extinct? These poems were spawned from many field seasons conducting research and observing the natural world, and incorporate the stories and science, and a wide variety of perspectives witnessed along the way. Ranging from Senegal in West Africa and Kenya in East Africa, to Hawai'i, Iowa and New Jersey, these poems delve not only into the natural world, but into the personal and political, both abroad and at home.


Copyright Owner

Janis E. Rodgers



File Format


File Size

75 pages