Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Facing the Reality of a Two Month Deadline

I had a long conversation (like, 4 hours) yesterday with a prof here at Berkeley who has been very supportive of my project. He pointed out that with 2 months to go, the most important chapter to write is the Catherine Walsh chapter, not the Seamus Heaney chapter (since Walsh's work is directly part of my argument, and the Heaney chapter was insisted on by a committee member who is concerned about me getting jobs). I've been loath to listen to this prof's advice to leave out the Heaney and Boland chapter entirely, because I had done a lot of work on it 2 summers ago, and I feel like I need to throw together as many things that I already have as possible. That, and without that chapter, my dissertation starts to feel slight and narrow.

So, I just need to check in with my other committee members about this, and then just commit to Walsh. And maybe Mills, a poet whom I really love but the other committee members who know the field are less interested in.

This dissertation, because I cannot afford to continue after March 28th, will not be what I wanted it to be. I simply do not have time to make it the comprehensive, in depth work I wanted it to be. I just have to accept this. The part I hate about this is that the only people who will read this dissertation and judge it in its current form are my committee members and any job search committees. In other words, the people who determine my academic future. If I have one.

Got stuck doing publishing work today (on a dissertation day). Spent the day using Amazon, Goodreads, Books In Print (Bowker), and Bookscan (Nielsen) to look up books people who like our books might like and their sales figures. Amazing how long it takes.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Woman Meets Perfume: Life after grad school

I was stopped by a stunning book jacket in Pegasus Books today:

Isn't that gorgeous?

I literally was only paying attention to the jacket and title page design (which was a flawless interpretation of the jacket) as an example of the way in which the typeface on the title page should echo that of the cover (well done Random-Penguin)....

.... but it turns out Harad's book is the story of a UT Austin Ph.D. in English who takes a bow and whisks herself off the academic stage to another life! I am inspired! After the million books on lyric, Irish politics, and publishing I have to read, and the towering pile of MSS, this is next on the list.

What not to do when trying to finish a dissertation

1) misspell a key word known by ALL members of your field in your goddamned dissertation precis.

2) drink. Or do. But probably not whiskey. Or most of a bottle of wine.

3) have a boyfriend.

4) have a job.

5) slyly and nostalgically guzzle a YA book about teens in 1996 (when you were in high school, ohmigawd) who come across facebook as kids and subtly alter their futures. Brain cand.... uhhh, I mean market research.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dissertation Saturday

I have been exhausting myself in preparation for the publishing company's marketing meeting on Monday -- felt sick and feverish last night, but i think I got it out of my system today. I spent 5 hours yesterday basically on data entry -- just entering in marketing information and sales copy for our reps at our distributor to read. It was important for me to do, since I needed to understand the different copy and its different purposes (catalog vs back jacket vs whatever), but certainly for next time, I will simply put it all in a Word doc and have an intern do the actual entry. Painful stuff, and frustrating. Also, found a major typo on the title page of one of the books about to go to print. *headache*

Today began slowly, which was nice. Got some still-warm pastries from a wee French bakery and had tea this afternoon with an old friend and her daschund. Lay on the couch and read a piece by John McPhee about structuring non-fic while my adorable cats curled up nearby. He resists chronological order for thematic or other forms of organization  I feel that writing about poetry should always really be thematic -- otherwise you are just doing a slow-ass line-by-line reading that shows none of your own impetus, and let's the poem dictate the reading entirely. I have been struggling with organization, but one of my committee members complimented me on the structure I used in the chapter I sent him! He said he felt the braiding and weaving was responsive the poems I was reading, which also involved the interweaving of texts. Hard to write a straightforward, A-B-C chapter about two poems, neither of which move in a direct fashion.

Reading a great book on lyric today edited by Mark Jeffreys. I'm trying to think through these two poems by Heaney and Boland, and how they might go with the rest of my dissertation. I am also incredibly behind -- I was supposed to have this chapter done by the end of this month, and instead I realized I have to totally rewrite it and that means starting from scratch on the research/theory/framework side of things. So, thinking about subjectivity and community, separation of the poet, etc. I also had a tiny epiphany that the poems I am looking at are actually both from sequences, which gives me much more to talk about with regards to form! Because clearly both are attempting to expand the lyric, which, as Jeffreys writes in his intro, is seen as removed from history (and possibly in opposition to it). Heaney's "Tollund Man in Springtime" is clearly a narrative composed of sonnets, while Boland's "Domestic Violence" (first poem in the sequence here)  is more like a multi-faceted approach to a single topic (basically her own backlist, pardon my cynicism).

So, I am going to try to finish this chapter by the end of the first week of February. How? Magic, of course. I like a quote I read recently, “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” ― E.L. Doctorow. I just have to keep moving. And writing. Tonight my plan is, after dinner (and wine, so we'll see), to chop up my existing chapter, finish the book on lyric, and maybe get started on a book about politics in Ireland. I am concerned about this chapter, but I also don't want it to drag down my last chapter AND INTRO that I have to write in February. Holy crappola.

I am skipping out on a major convention for the publishing job, but I told my boss before I started that I couldn't do this event. I'll be giving a talk at the ecopoetics conference! So ridiculously excited about this, even if it does cut into my writing and work time. I have been anticipating this for a year -- and it's in my own backyard, and I think I already know a quarter of the people going. Lucky me. This is what I'll miss.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

39 working days left (including today)

I was supposed to spend yesterday working, but instead I read, took a nap, got my nails done, and went  out to dinner with my boyfriend. That turned into a 3 hours long discussion about our future and my future in academia. I feel that I am being asked to choose between fulfillment of a long-held personal dream and my personal needs, including kids and not being a ball of stress all the time.

Is it just stubbornness to hold out for the 0.5% chance of a perfect job? What am I losing if I make a tenure-track job my first priority?

I am worried that I'll end up with a job rather than a career, and doing so will devastate me. My ambition and drive to succeed has always been a huge part of me, and I worry that putting personal desires ahead of professional ones will mean giving up a huge part of myself and what I take pride in doing and being.

I am constantly torn and fear making the wrong choice, closing off options forever. Becoming a failure.


Dissertation goals for the rest of the day: Figure out argumentation for 3rd chapter on Heaney and Boland.

As is, this is a chapter that described Heaney and Boland's representations of Irish society through the metaphor of the earth. It is simplistic and under-theorized, even if the readings are good. But this chapter was written when I was trying to make this an ecocritical dissertation, which is not where it has ended up going,

Idea: to make this chapter into a meditation on the lyric and Irish identity. Not saying "this is bad and old" compared to the experimental poets I work on, but exploring the relationship between identity and form in a postcol state. Using the same poems, "The Tollund Man in Springtime" and "Domestic Violence" as an example, I hope.

To that end: I am revisiting all the books and articles I have on Irish identity, the self, lyric, postcolonialism, and globalization. I hope this won't take too long, because this chapter needs to be done in the next 2 weeks. Luckily I have MLK Jr day to work on it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Things I wish I were doing instead of tweaking transition sentences and organization on my second chapter:

1) sleeping

2) watching Portlandia

3) cuddling my cats, who have been feeling lonely lately

4) reading the manuscripts I brought home with me, which I didn't get to because of this chapter

5) working on my next chapter.

This chapter was supposed to be done at the beginning of the month. It is now halfway through January, and my hard deadline for total completion is March 28th. I am concerned. Yet not concerned enough to turn off my internet and finish this damned thing.