A morbid fear of form filling

I’m writing this in Aldeburgh. I’m here for the poetry festival with four very good friends. I am meeting up with lots of other friends I have made through the poetry community since I retired, a community I didn’t even know existed a dozen years ago. So this weekend I have met up with poet friends from Cornwall, Cumbria, Leicester, York, Sheffield as well as lots of friends from my own locality, Manchester and Cheshire. It’s been great, indulging in my drug of choice, poetry, with like-minded people.

Pass the stanza by the left-hand side!

I have listened to some wonderful and some way-out poets from France, USA, Jamaica, Barbados, Scotland, Ireland and England, all on the same legal high, all reinforcing why I love poetry and its diversity.

What bothered me most when I was considering undertaking a PhD was that something in my life would have to go to make room for it. But if I give up any of those parts of my life that involve poetry, isn’t that somewhat defeating the object? I want to do this because I love poetry. If I have to give up even a small part of the poetry that is a major part of my life, what’s the point? And anyway, some things don’t bear thinking about. Once you have tasted that poetry buzz there’s no living without it. So, PhD, you’ll just have to learn to fit in, find your own space. This weekend it has been doing just that.

Since last Sunday, my life has been mostly about reading: Robert Graves, ‘The Greek Myths’, considering how parenthood myths informed Freudian psychoanalysis. Alongside that I have been reading Janet Sayers, ‘Mothering Psychoanalysis’, outlining the work of post-Freudian feminist psychoanalysts Helene Deutsche, Karen Horney, Anna Freud and Melanie Klein. Fascinating and interesting stuff, it is the breadth of reading I need at the moment until I show myself what exactly I should be focussing on for my research. Currently my reading is all about informing RD1, the project registration form. These books have come to Aldeburgh with me as my bedtime reading.

Speaking of RD1, I had a go at completing that this week too. I have an innate fear of form filling: I always feel as if lying is my default position and someone is going to catch me out doing it. So I read into every question an ambiguity that probably isn’t there. To accompany the RD1 there are ethics and insurance checklists to complete. As far as I can tell, they are heavily geared towards medical research so most of my answers are in the ‘no’ column. I know my research isn’t going to interfere with contraception or involve genetic engineering, for instance. I swear these are specific questions and I can envisage scenarios in health care etc. where they would be highly relevant. But not in my particular piece of literary research.

However, there is one question about the use of secondary sources, for instance websites, that has me floored. Who does anything these days without recourse to websites? And if I answer ‘yes’ to this question, will my application have to be referred to the ethics committee for approval? And what if I don’t get approval? And will I be flogged at the cart’s tail until I be bloody if I answer ‘no’ and then Google stuff further down the line and click on web-links? And how can I be doing grown-up research if I can’t even make a decision about how to answer this one simple question? And how can one little question generate so many subsidiary questions that I can’t answer either?

And this brings me back neatly to that community of poets I mentioned at the beginning. Another poet friend is also doing a PhD at MMU, we started at the same time, although quite independently of each other. I emailed him to ask his advice. Has he completed RD1 and how did he answer this ‘secondary sources’ question? Does Google and Wiki count, does he think, or am I reading too much into a simple question?

RD1 is a hoop that must be jumped through. But, just in case, is Proformaphobia a legitimate defence in law, do you suppose?

2 thoughts on “A morbid fear of form filling

  1. Yes, Rachel, navigating MMU’s ethical framework is an amusing wheeze for a poet. But as for your breadth of reading – that’s truly terrifying! All interesting stuff though. So glad you’re blazing (and leaving) a trail across the PhD wilderness!

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