week one

26 September, 2009

Well, here I am. Around ten months after first thinking about it, seven months after applying and five months after finding out I had a place on the course, I’m in Norwich, embarking on the creative writing masters at UEA. Some days it still doesn’t quite feel real; it’s as though I’ve been transported out of my old life and set down in someone else’s – like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Is it really that easy to give up your job, your life as you know it, and move to a city where you know precisely one and a half people? Apparently so. (Although my long-suffering friends, family and colleagues know that the last few months have hardly been an easy ride.)

So, week one. I got here last week, and spent it unpacking, settling in and doing all those jobs you have to do when you move house. This week it all kicked off – I enrolled on Monday, and throughout the week there were various meetings and meet-ups: an introduction to the faculty, the school, the course, our lecture module for this term, and a big old scrum on the Monday night for all the postgraduates starting in the school of literature and creative writing.

It was great to get onto campus on Monday; I’d spent the previous week oscillating between enjoying the simple pleasures of nesting (I’m sharing a lovely house in Norwich’s ‘golden triangle’) and feeling rather lost and lonely, with all my familiar points of reference gone. For the last few months before leaving London I’d been so focused (can you focus while essentially procrastinating about everything?) on the actual logistics of moving, constantly telling myself that as soon as I got here it would all be all right, that it was almost a bit of a shock when I actually got here to find that I was lonely, homesick and quite scared about the whole thing. Speaking to my London-based sister one evening and hearing sirens in the background down the phone I was suddenly hugely nostalgic for Brixton, even though I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with London and was looking forward to somewhere a bit smaller and prettier and leafier.

So finally getting stuck in and being reminded of why I’d moved here was a relief. UEA has a lovely campus and a very friendly vibe – staff, students and faculty included. It was carnage for the first few days, with all the new undergraduates arriving en masse; I felt very glad to not be eighteen/nineteen any more, with so much to prove (though they did look like they were having  a lot of fun). Strange to think of myself as a ‘mature’ student – the freshers must look at me in the same way that I did older graduates when I first started at university…

Teaching starts next week, so this week was just about meeting our course tutors and fellow course-mates, getting an overview of the way the course is taught and assessed (more on that next week) and getting the reading list for this semester’s lecture module, which is Poetics, writing, language. All very exciting, as well as daunting. We have two tutors for the workshop element of the course (one this term, one next), both of whom I’ve long admired as poets, so it’s going to be a huge privilege to be taught by them. I’m not entirely sure exactly how many of us there are doing the poetry strand of the MA, but we’re definitely five full-time, with another five or so part-time. But in any case workshops are definitely going to be a more intimate affair than I’d imagined.

Getting the reading list for the poetics module was perhaps the most exciting element of the week for me; I’d forgotten just how much I love thinking and talking about ideas, and how much I’d enjoyed studying critical theory as an undergraduate. I’ve ordered all my set texts and done some preliminary reading, and can’t wait to get my teeth stuck into the rest of it next week when all my shiny new books arrive. Just knowing I’m a student again feels deliciously exciting. There’s so much to learn…

More next week. I’ll end with a fantastic poem by Laura Riding, a poet I’d not heard of before this week, who features on week one of the Poetics module.

The Troubles of a Book

The trouble of a book is first to be
No thoughts to nobody,
Then to lie as long unwritten
As it will lie unread,
Then to build word for word an author
And occupy his head
Until the head declares vacancy
To make full publication
Of running empty.

The trouble of a book is secondly
To keep awake and ready
And listening like an innkeeper,
Wishing, not wishing for a guest,
Torn between hope of no rest
And hope of rest.
Uncertainly the pages doze
And blink open to passing fingers
With landlord smile, then close.

The trouble of a book is thirdly
to speak its sermon, then look the other way,
Arouse commotion in the margin,
Where tongue meets the eye,
But claim no experience of panic,
No complicity in the outcry.
The ordeal of a book is to give no hint
Of ordeal, to be flat and witless
Of the upright sense of print.

The trouble of a book is chiefly
To be nothing but book outwardly;
To wear binding like binding,
Bury itself in book-death,
Yet to feel all but book;
To breathe live words, yet with the breath
Of letters; to address liveliness
In reading eyes, he answered with
Letters and bookishness.

This post brought to you by the letters U, E and A, books by Granny, music by Basement Jaxx, with the assistance of much rooibos tea, runs in the park, and my ever-loving parents (kind sponsors of the shiny new laptop)

8 Responses to “week one”

  1. maggi said

    lovely poem! hope you soon make lots of friends 🙂

  2. Bridie said

    nice one. all the best x

  3. musingsfromthesofa said

    Hope it’s exciting as well as daunting and unsettling.

  4. Ella Fantasia & Omeron said

    Wonderful to read about your week’s downs and ups. Love you loads xx

  5. dickdadthebad said

    ontological freefall springs to mind ….
    nice one, Rin – xxx

  6. KatieStar said

    Lovely to share what is going on for you. I have been wondering how you have been transitioning. A blog is a really good idea – how do you set one up?

    I have this beautiful little booklet on the earth’s seasons and how we connect to them. It says autumn is a time of letting go and leaving behind; allow all the leaves of your London life to fall off now with ease – give it all time and by summer your life in Norwich will surely have blossomed bright summer flowers.

    Take care

  7. matthew said

    lots of love! looking forward to your updates!

  8. Mary said

    Was it you who told me about visiting a book depot somewhere and seeing the mountains and mountains of books buried in ‘book-death’? The poem reminded me of that image. Hope it’s all going well and you’re enjoying the dancing (is the teacher a little man with big glasses? If so then he is the one Oli knows, somehow). Writing a blog is also deceptively hard in my view (a bit like writing essays) but I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I’m really looking forward to your updates. Hope it’s all going well x

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