I enjoyed the Small Stone exercise but have been so busy with other writing and poetry-related activities that it has fallen away to the roadside as I have jogged on, trying to keep up with myself for the last month.
I’m about far enough away from the experience of my last year at university to have the beginnings of some perspective on it. A vague way of saying that I think I have come through the worst of the MFA-dissertation-and-teaching-qualification madness I succumbed to.
The dust is settling after a total of five years of full time higher education and it feels good. For a long time afterwards I was rushing everywhere, panicking about not getting things done on time, until one day, quite recently, I realised I can set my own agenda now. There is, at last, more time for other things apart from writing assignments.
I feel happier than I have done in years.
Apart from that though I have been feverishly filling up that time with writing projects….of course… More about those and other stuff soon.
One of the poems I wrote for my dissertation, Lunch in Ars En Re, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the wonderful people at Structo magazine, who published it earlier this year in issue 10 of their excellent journal. It’s a lovely surprise and I feel honoured.
The Pushcart Prize was established in 1976, and is a highly regarded literary project, based in New York. It represents the best of the small presses, which nominate up to six short stories, poems, essays, memoirs or novel extracts from their published output during the year, for possible inclusion in the Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series.
You can read a post here at the Structo blog about the nominations. It is a great magazine and I feel very lucky to have had two poems published in it this year. The nomination is the cherry on top!
The dust is settling after the handing in of my dissertation and the excitement of receiving my results. I have been enjoying having more time to spend with my son and be a mum. The house is looking less like the scary scene out of the film Brazil with the paper flying everywhere, and resuming its status as a home which contains far too many books (I know, there is no such thing…) and neat piles of paper which are slowly being filed away in boxes marked ‘Recycle’ , ‘Research, ‘Review’ (aka- dunno wot to do with this).
I have hardly written a word, apart from a few lines here and there, updated my cv and started applying for jobs… it’s been good to take a break from it and give my creative writing muscle a much-needed break. But I have written down a brief plan for a new writing project which will keep me busy for, at least, the next year and possibly longer.
Because this is just the start- not the end. This is where I get to be a writer without the safety net of university, although I do hope to go back to higher education to teach because it was the highlight of my last year of academia.
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…
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.
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.