I don’t like to talk about my works in progress, not because of any sort of superstition or fear that they will be jinxed, but because I want to work with the raw ideas before sharing them. I want to develop my thoughts before inviting others into conversation.
Because of this, I have only made oblique references to returning to school for a PhD in literature. I’ve been reading and writing and talking to my advisor and to my husband about my scholarship. That’s plenty for now. I’m still hammering out my thesis proposal. My advisor in particular is brilliant at not giving me answers but suggesting books that show me new angles and help me come up with my own answers. I am enjoying the work and the process while still feeling rather protective of this new thing.
The only time I put out a larger request for feedback and help was when I first started working on this project in early July 2015. I had a dissertation-sized question and wanted suggestions for writers I could study whose work demonstrated a similar preoccupation. I received dozens of suggestions and quickly developed some criteria beyond “this person writes about ___.”
Part of this criteria is subjective. If I am going to live with someone’s work for a few years, I have to love something about it. From the dozens, I eventually selected six writers whose work allows me to approach my question from multiple angles and whose work I love.
Over the years, many people have asked me about the relationship between scholarship and writing. “Doesn’t analyzing text kill any desire to write?” No. The more I study these writers and their ideas and techniques, the more I want to write. I want to work on these ideas both intellectually and creatively. I want to write everything.
One of my six authors is C.D. Wright, a terrific contemporary poet. At 5 am today, I learned that she passed away unexpectedly at age 66.
I didn’t know her, but I have been living with her poetry for the past few months and plan to spend the next few years with her. I’ve barely scratched the surface of her work, but it’s stunning.
She makes me want to write. More than that: she makes me want to play and to experiment.
Here are a few links to her work to give you an idea of her range and her dazzling skill and to her obituary at the Poetry Foundation: