This PhD is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in a life-long career of studying. And that’s as it should be, it’s the pinnacle of academic achievement. But there’s a part of me that feels like it’s also a game you have to learn the rules for if you really want to win. I have to learn the grammatical rules of acadamese, that’s all. Easy, really.
I signed off last week with my chickens well and truly accounted for in their eggshells. The euphoria of being offered the practice-based route to PhD lasted for a full eight days before the egg basket fell smack on the floor. I heard on Wednesday this week that I can’t transfer: something to do with a new Masters course they are also setting up. I’m not sure of the details or how that affects the PhD, I’ll find out in due course, I expect. However, every cloud, as they say…the word count for my critical element has been renegotiated on my behalf down from 50,000 to approximately 25,000 words. Halved. That’s all I wanted anyway, so all’s good. If I get my head down and practice my academese, I can do this. Amie’s response when I told her: ‘Well, that’s OK. You never take the easy way out of anything, Mum, do you?”
So this week I revisited the chapter I had sent off to Angelica and Antony. I read through Antony’s comments and actually they weren’t as negative as I had thought. I even had a couple of very positive remarks. I decided to do a cut and paste job. I cut out the bits that are unnecessary; I pasted them into a new document ‘deemed unnecessary’. I cut out the bits that need some work and pasted them into a new document, you guessed it, ‘needs some work’. Then I reread the bits that were positive and asked myself what was different about them. Mostly it was that they were explicitly related to my mother/daughter theme, not theory for its own sake; and that the statements were unambiguous. Academe doesn’t like ambiguity. Clear, bold statements relevant to the theme. All the theory I put into the chapter was put there for a reason, but I hadn’t made that reason specific enough. So I spent some time relating it specifically to my research theme; and taking out the ambiguity of statements like ‘It was thought for some time…’ or ‘Many psychoanalysts agree that…’. Then I repasted it into the chapter. I spent a gruelling six hours yesterday adding footnotes and references. Angelica said I should get into the habit of adding these as I go along, and usually I do; and it’s excellent advice. But for this chapter, after my last failed attempt, I wanted to make sure I said what I wanted to say, so I just wrote. Now I see why that wasn’t a good idea: it’s quite difficult finding references after the event. From now on, referencing and footnoting as I go along. I can do this. I WILL do this! Anyway, I paid the latest instalment on the fees this week, so I can’t afford not to.
Also, I’m seriously considering changing my poetry focus from Jackie Kay to Pascale Petit; another suggestion by the team last week. I’d mentioned Pascale Petit’s maternal focus in her poetry in the chapter and Antony advised thinking about making her work a focus for my close reading as she has been less ‘studied’ than Jackie Kay. So I got out my copy of What The Water Gave Me, her collection of poetry inspired by the art of Frida Kahlo. The sequence of six poems ‘what the water gave me’ are a good focus set I think. I’m reading them with this possibility in view. Her collection Mama Amazonica would be ideal. She read from it at her recent Poets&Players visit, but the collection isn’t out till September 2017 and that might be a bit late for me.
In other news, first the poetry side of life. On Tuesday evening it was our East Manchester and Tameside Stanza meeting at the buffet bar on Stalybridge Station. Check out our FaceBook page for up-coming meetings:
This week we had a writing workshop: three members prepared writing activities and we wrote to those prompts and shared our work at the end of the evening. We wrote from maps, from sound prompts and from the prompt of a simple phrase, ‘that was the turning point…’ The maps activity was interesting: to find two place names on an OS map, note the terrain between them then write the journey from one place to the other, imagining the places as people and the terrain as metaphors for their relationship. Interesting take on a maps activity that I hadn’t done before.
On Thursday morning we had a Poets&Players planning meeting at the Whitworth Art Gallery. I considered driving into Manchester, but thought weekday parking might be a problem down by Whitworth Park: it’s handy for the hospitals and the University. So I caught the tram and the bus. I’m so glad I did. Oxford Road is a major roadworks, lanes closed and traffic diverted off the main route at Allsaints to take you behind the Aquatics Centre and the hospitals to find Oxford Road again at Whitworth Park. It’s a mess I wouldn’t have enjoyed driving. So I was at the Whitworth in time for a nice pot of rooibos tea before the meeting got underway. We finalised the details for our annual poetry competition. Michael Symmons Roberts has agreed to be our judge this year, so get your poems polished for that one. And we started planning our 2016-17 programme, always an exciting time. We have some good names in the mix as well, if they all accept our invitation. You can find updated information about the competition and the programme of events on our website
On Friday I went with Amie to Peterborough to visit my son, Richard. We didn’t leave until about 10.30: I had to be at her restaurant for a visit from the accountant to check out the quarterly VAT before we could leave so it was about 1.15 before we got there. He is packing his home into boxes at the moment, planning a move into a new house in the middle of November. We went into the city centre, had lunch in Wagamama, coffee al fresco at Carluccio’s, booked a table for our Christmas get-together there in December. We went back to Richard’s house, stayed until about 8.30. He made us vegan shepherd’s pies for supper before we left. We were home by 11.00. We listened to the new Alan Partridge Nomad CD en route. He puts in his footnotes as he goes along. So it was work really: I was learning from him. Footnote: he is a very funny man.
So that’s another week done and dusted. I’ll be back at my desk later today, teaching myself acadamese, becoming fluent. Footnote: it will be worth it in the end.
No poem this week. Footnote: I just went into my ‘poems’ folder to see if there was one I could post, clicked on the ‘happy with these’ folder: there was one poem in there. One. Such is the life of a poet!