My son left this week for his senior year at college, which removed a handy barrier between me and working all the time. My writer self, my teaching self, and my role as Department Head are competing hardest for my hours. Teaching and chairing are more deadline-driven so my writer self is hanging on by her fingernails. She has grit, though.
What I’ve been writing during the past few weeks–it actually does have a deadline, Tuesday–is a column for the web platform of a scholarly journal. This longish piece concerns creative scholarship and has made vivid to me how fiercely creative writing and scholarly training are fighting in the colosseum of my brain. Seriously, I’ve published a book of creative criticism and other essays besides. You’d think I’d know how to argue for it by now, but I’m finding this piece very hard for reasons that may be emotional as well as logistical. I think the essay is clicking now, but it’s one of those subjects I had to write too much about before I could cut the thing back to a better version of itself. The throughline kept shifting and I kept finding other sources I wanted to consult. Both creative writers and scholars discover what they think by writing about it–despite animosity between the fields, they have more in common than not–but scholarship places a much higher value on reading all major statements on the subject so far. I think that’s what serious, curious writers should do, learning everything they can if they’re going to make some kind of beyond-the-personal pronouncement, but it’s also true that this assignment is an online column, not a full-fledged article. Sometimes you just have to stop.
I’m also splitting town early Wednesday for this hybrid event in Cambridge, Mass: I’m reading from and talking about Poetry’s Possible Worlds at the Grolier Bookshop on August 31, 7 pm, with Jan Beatty and Angela Narciso Torres; January Gill O’Neil will introduce. Marvelously, it’s also a HYBRID EVENT. Sign-up for in-person attendance here. Sign up for Zoom here. You can also order the book from them here–it says “out of stock” but I know for sure they have copies, and I’ll be lugging more in my carry-on. It’s one of the few places that HAS copies, actually, beyond a couple of local venues; since the first print run sold out we’re waiting on the next (although new boxes should arrive at the distributor soon).
In other words, my writer self isn’t giving up! It’s also good to celebrate two September publications that make me particularly happy, a poem in Poetry and an essay in Poets & Writers pictured below. I’m hoping to get a few subs out in September as magazines open their windows, but we’ll see. Ed-in-chief Beth Staples is back from sabbatical so Shenandoah sub periods for the next 6 months have just been posted.
My blogger self has to split now, but I want to leave you with two quotes about creative scholarship. The first I read in graduate school (not for a course, just out of passionate searching); the second appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Ed as I was finishing Poetry’s Possible Worlds. It’s good to have company when you feel like a hybrid monstrosity.
“I secretly appropriated for myself Woolf’s own statement of 1940 calling for ‘a new critical method,’ both ‘colloquial and yet intense,’ with the swiftness and lightness of a ‘sketch’ but really ‘a finished work’…a writer has to need what s/he writes, and to need it in ways that implicate other people.” -Rachel Blau DuPlessis, The Pink Guitar, vii-viii
“The obvious point that nevertheless bears repeating is that nothing anyone writes is objective—it’s just that some people have the privilege of maintaining the facade of objectivity because their bodies and their perspectives and their beliefs and their epistemologies are seen as neutral and normal, not as deviant…I think it’s a funny thing to still be litigating in 2020.” –Eve L. Ewing to Rachel Toor
5 responses to “Splitting / creative scholarship”
Ha ha—it’s funny to read the process-piece-about-the-piece before reading the piece. Seriously, take the time you need. I am fretting my way into my conference paper, much too late …
Debra Rae Cohen
Distinguished Professor of English Emerita
University of South Carolina
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Yeah, I know! Sometimes writing in another mode about the OTHER piece I’m writing is helpful, though. I use to write poems linked to dissertation chapters.
Very glad to know your writer self is hanging in there. We need her hybrid monstrosities.
Found my way to your blog after reading your poem this morning, 5:30 am in Seattle, in Poetry magazine. The body as church, the letting-go of mothering, the freedom, the peonies… thank you for this new way of imagining what was a painful loss.
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Thank you so much! I appreciate this.