A Creative Writing PhD – The Second Year

notebooksMy first year as a creative writing PhD student was fairly eventful, with a pandemic taking over every aspect of life from March onwards. Looking back, I think the routine of PhD work, with the opportunity to immerse myself in research, was the main thing that kept me going through the lockdown. The second year has included teaching online, running workshops online, organising a conference (also online) and plenty of reading, mainly from the comfort of my own home. For obvious reasons, I don’t have many photos! 

Year one ended with an attempt to find a Plan B for my museum-based research activities. It took a lot of negotiation and adjustment, but in the end I managed to work with National Museum Wales to plan a digital version of my project, which will be featured online via the museum’s Instagram account over the next few months.

I delivered a series of creative writing workshops with a group of people via Zoom. We took inspiration, each week, from paintings in the museum’s collection, and had lots of fun chatting, writing and sharing our poems with each other. It was not the same as being in the galleries, but we still enjoyed it, and had some fascinating discussions. Some of the poems written in these workshops will be those shared by the museum on Instagram. Please do take a look, and you can also take part yourself by writing your own poem.

Due to the delays caused by Covid, I have had to re-arrange my research, leaving the creative section until later. I am pleased to say that I have now begun writing poems for my creative section. They are coming very slowly, but they are coming!

Last year I began teaching undergraduates. It was tough teaching online, but I really enjoyed the discussions we had. I never realised how much teaching makes you question your own assumptions. It has prompted me to re-consider how I edit my own writing.

Art and WordsHere are a few more highlights from my second year:

– Being commissioned by Voluntary Arts Wales to run a poetry workshop for a local drawing group and write a poem on the subject of creativity.

– Re-writing, submitting and finally gaining publication for my first academic peer-reviewed journal article, discussing the poetry of Emily Berry and Ocean Vuong. I’ll add the link here as soon as it’s online.

– Co-directing the inaugural SWWDTP summer research festival (a cross between a conference and an arts festival) with fellow PhD student Iona Ramsay from Exeter University. Our theme was ‘futures’. It took a lot of work but it was also fun, and the events themselves were really interesting and wide ranging in their focus. I was particularly pleased to organise a panel discussion focusing on equal, diverse and inclusive futures, on topics including blindness gain, diversity in the arts sector and the value of equipping young people with skills to campaign for social justice.

– Speaking about my research at the NAWE (National Association for Writers in Education) annual conference. It was online, of course, but I still enjoyed every moment of it.ware poets anthology

– Poetry success and publication in lots of places that I had been submitting to for years, including Poetry Wales, Under the Radar and Anthropocene, as well as commendations in the Cheltenham Poetry Festival Competition and the Ware Poets Open Poetry Competition.

– Having two of my poems translated into Italian for the bilingual anthology Correnti Incrociate, organised by Mosaique Press with students from Salerno University.

– Collaborating with fellow writers, visual artists and musicians as part of the SWWDTP Creativity in Research Cluster.

– Acting as guest editor for Issue Four of the Abergavenny Small Press Literary Journal. It was a joy to select the poems from a fantastic range of subject matters and poetic styles.

– Finally meeting some of my fellow PhD students again this summer, as lockdown restrictions have begun to ease. There is no substitute for sitting in the park together and chatting about research, life and the universe.

Let’s see what the third year brings…

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2 thoughts on “A Creative Writing PhD – The Second Year

  1. I found this really interesting, Rachel. You have been very productive and have had lots of great experiences. Looking forward to seeing your writing!

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