} Coursework results and overall degree
Coursework ended up going stunningly well in terms of process – I was rather proud of myself for my time management. Everything was done ahead of time with a few days to spare, meaning I was much more relaxed this time round (though the absence of near-pneumonia helped). I did feel a twang of worry about Creative Ent because it looked much thinner than DeathBook, but Jazza commented that it looked much more ‘grown-up’ and I think I can agree.
Creative Ent was a double-breasted journal of account and reflection on the trip itself, then a step-by-step of producing an anthology, supported by relevant emails, surveys and another copy of Semester 1’s work. I also wrote a semi-persuasive conclusive paper at the end that acted as a kind of summary of the whole thing. I’ve sent it to Steve, Randy, Lucy and Patty for future use/reference, and will probably send a copy of the anthology guide to Katharine. The conclusive paper also referred to the work I’ve begun on international writers (more on this later). In the end I got 82 (1st) overall, which makes it the highest mark I’ve received at Bath Spa yet. It’s around about what I was expecting given the extra work I put into it, though presentation was toned downthis year compared to DeathBook (that said, we did call it End-Is-Nigh-Book or – Chiok’s idea – Apocalyterature).
Both Novel-writing and Poetry were half creative folder, and half artistic/reading journal combined with market research. I was very thorough with both but have to say I went a little OTT on Poetry in particular: I went so far as to create a multimedia CD of images and music that’d inspired me in between audio recordings of all the poems in my collection (thirty in total), Godless Conversations. For Novel-writing I got 66 (2:1) overall, which I was initially tearful about as it was one of the lowest marks I’d ever received (despite being a mark many people would love to have, which made it difficult to talk about), then I emailed Dad and he put things in perspective by saying it’s just like any other rejection I’d receive in the real world. Once it was distanced like that, I was fine. For Poetry I got double 76 (1st) which made me feel better. Tim commented to me that myself and Agatha are the top people in what has been a very strong group – I’d disagree slightly because he seems to have discounted Anna and Sarah, but maybe that’s because I think Ags and I are closer on his radar due to our style.
So, overall, this equates to a First – a summa cum laude – which I am very grateful for and pleased with. Despite all the shit I’ve been through, despite the setbacks and black holes that seemed endless, I’ve got what I came here for – my talent and strength have held out – and fuck anybody who even doubted I would. That said, I realise that while I put in a lot of my own steam and did this by and large alone, when I couldn’t, there were great people there to offer guidance and red ink.
Happily, others I know of who got their Firsts are Anna and Jay, but due to lack of Internet I think I missed most people’s Facebook revelations of degree classifications when the results came out. It makes me wonder how many First-class Honours are awarded overall in the country, and how many of those recipients go on to really do something worthwhile. ‘Worthwhile’ here meaning making themselves the best and happiest they can be. Or I suppose get a good job that does justice to them. Though with the current employment environment we keep hearing either horror stories or weak rays of hope like ‘oh, employers are looking for creatives because they need employees to be versatile and innovative’. What’s a poor graduand to do?
I graduate on Friday; Dad’s coming over on Thursday, getting here at about noonish. Taking me for dinner Friday evening, then we fly out on Monday – I get back on the 11th August. I told him about my classification last Sunday and he said he was proud. Indeed, I had a wealth of response from friends on Facebook that was very touching – I wrote a note to everyone to say thanks, and Fran commented ‘Just the responses you've had so far show how much you have affected everyone around you’, which I think I can finally believe, even if I’ll doubt it again later. I leave marks. Wow…what a thing to be able to say about yourself. What – I know this verges on egotistic but I feel it – what a responsibility.
(You know, previously, I would be all kinds of doubting what I was feeling. As in, I’d keep stopping every ten words to defend myself. But nowadays? I figure it’s okay to feel what you feel, as long as you’re not a bastard/bitch. I.e. – you can be as proud as you like as long as you temper it with a healthy dose of humility every once in a while. I think I’m growing.)
We’ve done stunningly well on the anthology, if I do say so myself. We stuck to our deadlines amazingly well and reached decisions efficiently and fairly, even when we struggled to keep in touch with our US counterparts. At any rate, ‘Some of Its Parts’ came in proof-form to us around the 23rd of June, and we all gathered round Sarah’s to celebrate. Jen and I made gluten-free cupcakes and iced them heavily with buttercream frosting dyed green (and one huge one for the head) in honour of the Very Hungry Caterpillar, our mascot. Good evening, very pleased with our little book – it’s actually real!
However, we’ve kinda been let down by our institution, it has to be said. We got everything done in time for the whole thing to be ready for Graduation, but turns out we’ll have it ready for September’s Freshers’ Fair etc because we’re not allowed to showcase it at Graduation, according to the Registrar. Saddening.
Still not sure how we’re gonna distribute it, but we’re meeting tomorrow (Weds) so hopefully we can get some firmer ideas then. Steve says they’re going to use it as a marketing tool for the exchange, the course and the university. I’m very proud of it so I almost wish it could go further. Will post photos soon.
} Money, Word-Cricket
As it stands, I’m pretty certain I’ve reached rock-bottom in terms of a respectable student’s finances. I am very literal when I say the following: I’ve maxed out my overdraft and they won’t let me extend it, and the funds in the account Dad set up and puts money in, and any meagre savings I may have tried to accumulate. All I have is the £10ish in my purse for cat food. No loans coming in, and if I do get that AHRC grant (won’t know till sometime next month), it won’t be in my account till October at least but I’m not certain.
I have to pay rent on the 22nd. Su’s having to take money out of my deposit for cleaning that other people didn’t do and a flea control person (I don’t recall any fleas and why can’t she just get a spray, but fair enough). I have to pay bills. I owe Nat and her parents a lot for fridge, credit checks, other bits. I’ll need to get a coach ticket to come home from the airport on the 11th, and a train ticket to get to Oxford on the 25th. I owe Max and Annie bail-out money. I think my Psychologies subscription comes out in August too. Oh yeah, and I’m meant to be buying things like shampoo? Food?
Yet despite all that, I don’t feel as worried or upset as I should be. I almost end up chuckling at the situation, even welcoming it. Like I have to atone for something – I guess…well, I know Mom’s debt was leagues worse, but I guess I need to experience how it feels, and, if belatedly, appreciate how you still have to get up in the morning. Perhaps. Also, there’s some pretty liberating about life being simplified like this. After all, I don’t worry about budgeting because there’s nothing to budget! Ha!
In all seriousness, though. I’m gonna have to ask Dad to bail me out, once he gets here. It’s not like I’ve been an extravagant student – I don’t drink, I barely go out, I don’t drive, I barely buy CDs or DVDs or clothes anymore – I’ve just been gradually sapped down this past year by storage, cats, travel. Of course I acknowledge that I should have attempted to get a job, any job, while I was studying…but in all honesty – and I don’t want to defend myself – I don’t know if I could have handled it. Handled it in the sense of having my mental and emotional wits around me enough to both tolerate the stupidity of the real world and my studies / other commitments. I think I might have broke myself.
The unfortunate part is that (though it might sound like a poor excuse) the timing’s all wrong for finding a job, any job, now. I’d get hired only to leave for nearly a month. When I get back, though… Also, the job climate isn’t that great in Bath. I do intend to try to do odd creative things over the summer – like baking – to sell to earn a bit, if I can. I hate asking Dad for money for two main reasons: 1) I don’t like the dependency and obligation; and 2) I know that they’re not in a perfect situation financially, what with moving towards setting up their own business and supporting Grandma / Josh&family. I don’t like being a burden. And, minorly, it’s embarrassing and complicated. At any rate, I hope for it to be structured like a loan because it’ll be such a big ask.
In the meantime I finally went ahead and set up Word-Cricket, my freelance proofreading/copyediting venture, under the name Taegan Harker. ‘Chirpy service for chirpy words’ (!). I’m charging £12.50 an hour for proofreading and £14p/h for copyediting, which after some research I’ve deemed to be a competitive rate – and I’ve said I’ll look at anything that has words. Word-Cricket will also encompass writing ‘odd jobs’ like blurb/programme-writing, writing tutelage and collection/anthology assembly advice at individual prices. I’ve started with a Facebook group that’s been met with interest and is 36 strong, and now Larry’s kindly offered to design and host a proper website for me, which is nearly done. Once it’s up I’ll take a more proactive promotions campaign, though I confess I do feel a tick of nerves because I don’t have a professional qualification, even though I know I’m good at it anyway.
So far my friend Nerissa has said she’ll come to me when she’s ready, which is nice and I feel she’ll do. I need to tell Dad and Cathy about it; maybe they can help. Otherwise, no official jobs as yet. That said, I’m taking a look at David E Oprava’s epic PhD poem ‘Springtime in America’ in order to write a blurb and give some thoughts, which I thought was nice of him considering he doesn’t really know me apart from through Carrie pointing him I my direction RE international writers. I hope by doing this I can show my usefulness and maybe strengthen the tie – he’s very interesting. I’ve also learnt from Steph – the girl I was tutoring – that she got 2:1 this year overall, with her highest mark being in Sudden Prose (the module I was helping her with). That’s such good news to hear and heartening.
} Poetry readings and Tim intros
While I’ve been out of the loop I’ve also done my first couple of poetry readings! Huzzah! Finally! The first was on 8th June upstairs at the St James Wine Vaults behind the Royal Crescent, which I’d never been to before but was a pretty nice venue. Was myself, Jen, James Evans, Lucas, a lovely past MA named Dikra, and Agatha – it was great to finally all read together, and I daresay the mix was a potent one. The event was tagged onto the Bristol PoetryCan festival-thing, so I think everyone was a bit cultured-out, hence why the audience was a bit sparse. But still!
Oddly enough, I wasn’t really nervous at all, and it didn’t really occur to me that it was my first reading until the day: something the others found hard to believe, bless. I read ‘Preparing the Chicken’, ‘L’Arbre du Tenere’, ‘Poem about a feather’, ‘Pear-Shaped’ and ‘Teaching the Juggler to Pirouette’, and was the first in the line-up. Seemed to go well! I wasn’t expecting to do so well at reading, either, but according to James (Davey) it was ‘amazing’, ‘a complete natural’. The acoustics in that room were very good, I thought.
The second was last Friday (10th July) at the Oxfam Bookshop next to the Chapel Arts Centre: a very small but cosy space with an even smaller audience. Ticketed as well. The readers – myself, Jen, Lucas, Dikra, Andy Turner and Zoe Howarth – outnumbered the audience, haha. For some reason I was more nervous about this one, probably because Tim had told us we needed to introduce the poems and really emphasise their context – something I didn’t really want to do. But it turned out fine in the end, apart from I think I messed up the context bit. I was after the break, third from last. Read: ‘Gumbo Ya-Ya’ (new), ‘Foxcalls’ (new), ‘Preparing the Chicken’ and ‘Poem about a feather’. Afterward we all went for a “drink” which mostly consisted of following Andy around town until we all got fed up and dispersed, haha. Was the first time I’d been out with Tim around; he thought it was interesting that I didn’t like to drink because one of the reasons was I didn’t like letting my guard down. Then Jen and I walked back along the river in the pitch black and practically ran a gauntlet of bats.
There was gonna be another reading this Saturday (18th) somewhere in Bradford-upon-Avon, courtesy of Carrie, but she’s down with the flu (hopefully not the swine variety) so it’s had to be cancelled. Was gonna be me, Jen, James Evans and James Davey, and possibly Anna.
For both readings Tim introduced us all. Very odd sensation. I can barely remember what he said the first time round but at least it was flattering – something along the lines of ‘she has created her own universe’. But the second time round, he commented that I have an intensity formed from ‘poems that reach a sense of prayer – religion – and seem so religious because they are so deeply personal. But the more personal they become, the broader their application’. Something like that. I do appear to be following in Li-Young Lee’s footsteps by coming to religion through poetry. I kinda like that.
} MA, Tower Poetry School
I still haven’t decided – if indeed I should decide – what vein I’ll be travelling in on the MA; poetry or fiction. At the launch of Carrie’s first collection The Tethers, I briefly talked to Gerard (Woodward) about it and he remarked that you have less time for experimentation at the beginning of the MA than you think. But I do take heart from him as a literary figure who has done both disciplines with success. He went on to say he’s pleased with how much I’ve changed over the course of the three years, even though he said it was always obvious I was focused and would get what I deserved, and that he looked forward to what I would do next, which was nice of him.
I do have the feeling I will try my hardest to divide my time between Poetry and Novel. I think my prose would benefit from the focus to improve, but that I’d be stupid to ignore my strength in poetry, and forsake the momentum I feel I’m gathering. I wonder how it’ll work, especially with regards to the final manuscript. I’ll have to learn more self-discipline, I feel. I’ll also need to decide, over the summer, what I want to use as my fiction project: I get the feeling Magnolias & Gaslight needs to be re-written from the beginning in a different style, and plus I’m just not feeling enthused about it right now.
Anyway, Tricia in the office has sent all the regular MAs an email just to check they work, and so we’ve taken the opportunity to strike up conversation, find each other on Facebook and so on. From what I can deduce, as expected many of them appear to be American and/or older. The Bath Spa BA contingent consists of me, Becky Milford (‘Delicate Corpses’, in ‘Some of Its Parts’), Dan Vasili and, happily, Lucas! Yay! Apparently Tim told him at the reading last Friday, unofficially, haha. I’m glad to have somebody there I know. As for who’ll be my age, it appears there’s a couple of girls called Natalie Taylor and Chak Yeung (the former of whom I get a feeling I’ll get along with very well), plus Dan and (I presume) Becky. (Lucas is actually 22, which I know isn’t much of a difference but for technicality’s sake.) Anyway, I’ve already broadcast myself as a potential source of information to everyone, and I think we’re trying to arrange a meet-up when everyone gathers in Bath.
I mentioned Oxford earlier – under the encouragement of Carrie I applied for this year’s Tower Poetry School there, which’ll run under the tutelage of Frances Leviston and Jane Draycott. It’s for 18-23 year-olds. I really didn’t expect to be picked but I was! Eek! There’s about 14/15 of us from what I can tell. The poetry tutors are all excited for me and say it’ll be good prep for the MA, of which I have no doubt. Accommodation and tutelage is all provided / paid for by them, which is nice; now I just need to find money for a train ticket and food… I’m slightly nervous, but in a good way I think. I need to stretch my borders. And plus! Our stuff gets edited for publication!