What does writing a dissertation do?

Just a few thoughts here, as they come tumbling out of my overwhelmed brain…what does a dissertation do? A badly formed question- but I suppose what I mean is what does writing a dissertation achieve? What do you learn from the process? Last year I wrote 15000 words of prose, which I wrangled over for months but in the end felt more confident with knowing what I was doing, being able to reflect on the process of writing, and the aim at the end.

This year I am dancing my way through writing a collection of poetry, which has been growing slowly since last September, and it feels not intangible exactly but arcane definitely. I hope that doesn’t make me sound pretentious, I just haven’t quite got to the bottom of what I’m doing yet.  I know that I know what it is but I am not able to articulate it correctly, yet. It is partly intuitive and playful, partly analytical to the point of dissection.

I am playing my cards close to my chest, both in my work and my possible explanation of it- I am facing a paradox- which pleases me. I feel like that means the work is going somewhere interesting…enough… At this point I do tend to take the line of Leonora Carrington- watch the video and hear her response to questions about the meaning of her work.

However part of the point of writing this dissertation, and the attached critical essay, is for me to do exactly what La Carrington avoided doing, and didn’t have to do, and why should she…. I have to expound on my work, the reasons I wrote it, the choices I made/ am making, the influences, my own research, where it falls (if it does) in the canon…in other words the academic bit. And I want to know too- because that clarity allows for a greater control in my own writing process and therefore, I hope, in the end better poetry. Also, with a teaching qualification now under my belt, my own experience of completing this dissertation and what I learn from it will feed into the advice I may give students in the future.

I find writing poetry significantly different from writing prose. Each poem is a construction, crafted in a few or over many stages, which may change given the context of the work surrounding and accompanying it. As the collection grows the poems take on new meanings, or lose them completely, and lose their place in the work as a whole. Prose does the same thing- the parts must keep their place, be consistant, keep the intention and integrity of the whole piece. I feel even more with poetry though, that the consituents of the collection must stand on their own, each line, each word even, must stand up to scrutiny…no pressure then…

The Final Furlong

Five years ago I went to university, to get qualified as a journalist, to study creative writing, to gain a teaching qualification which would enable me to teach in higher education institutions. To eventually go out and earn enough money to support me and my son.

I’m a month away from finishing that five years, from completing the goal, realising the aim…and all that…

This year has been a challenge, studying the Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher education, alongside completing the final year of the MFA in Creative Writing, has twisted my melon into new and uncomfortable positions a melon should not find itself in.

I am now facing Becher’s Brook, a melon leaping against all odds, at the final furlong,  a collection of 40 poems plus critical essay stuffed in the saddle bags.

Not quite 40 yet…but they’re coming along slow and steady.

Life continues to be rich, surprising, satisfying and blooming weird…definitely blooming

When it’s all over on 30 September there will be more blogging and there may be more before then… anything that helps me get this final ‘thing’ achieved…five years at university is a long time- but, apart from motherhood, it’s been the making of me.

Planned Journeys 1: Prospect Cottage

As part of my dissertation research I need to make some journeys. I am not sure when these will take place. One is to visit Derek Jarman’s garden in Dungeness. Prospect Cottage, where Jarman resided from 1986, until his death in 1994, is now privately owned but the garden is easily viewed from the road. I’ve meant to go there for years and the location fits in with some of the themes of the poetry I am writing.