Stuart Clough


Full-time business writer. Part-time poet. One-time philosopher. @stuart_Ov Guestbook

Part-time poet – is doing an MA Poetry part-time a terribly good or bad idea?

Some time in June or July 2017 I took a summer course in poetry and creative writing at Manchester Writing School.

The school is run by Carol Ann Duffy (poet laureate), and led by Adam o'Riordan, whose most recent collection – The Herring Famine – is some of the most elegant writing you'd care to read. You need kid gloves to consider those couplets.

Anyway, the summer course was pretty awesome – I came out giddy as a school girl, and told my wife and kids that I simply had to have more poetry in my life, because it made me so happy to be writing and reading poetry with other poetry people.

And if you find something that makes you really happy, then you're a) really fortunate, and b) compelled by the universe to keep doing it.

Because: what kind of madness would it be to find that thing you love doing the most and then walk away from it?

Something terrible.

You'd be passing out of this life in that moment, a moment of perverse shrinking, and what kind of lesson is that to pass on to your kids?

So I spent about two months putting together a 57-page application with the help of some very lovely people (a good doctor, a magical boat poet and the hardest working marketing scholar you'd care to know) and, after a phone interview with Mr/Dr o'Riordan in December I was offered a place!

So that's me pretty fucking excited.

The only thing is, being the practical philosophising soul that I am, it poses the dilemma of how the hell you squeeze in something like a 2-year, part-time MA with significant writing and reading commitments when you're holding down a full-time job, investing in the love of your life, and growing up two babes who've never slept a night through between them.

Where do you find the time?

Initially I was thinking that I could go down to a three day week.

That would give time to make some pennies, time for the family, and time to dedicate to the craft.

I would in effect be setting up as a part-time business writer, part-time poet.

And a part-time poet strikes me as a wholly legitimate way of taking on a craft, and giving you some form or definition for the project you're undertaking.

Because an underlying concern with something like a poetry MA is always going to be:

Why the fuck are you spending your time and energies on this niche, idiosyncratic, self-absorbed affectation?

In the parlance of my native lands, the question would be:

*"What the fuck are you playing at man? Get a grip!"

Which, in the context of the the economy-as-reality makes a great deal of sense.

We exist by virtue of our place in the economy, not by virtue of our place in humanity.

That's a sad fact, but an endemic and all too visible fact all the same.

So when you give up even a fragment of your place in the economy – take just one meagre finger off the capital pump – the eyes of all those you know turn on you, as if to say, 'we are doing this, we are working. You are less than us, you're half-way to being a dirty, benefits-riddled fucking scrounger', which in the class hierarchy of the UK is of course akin to dirt, and certainly less than ideal.

You start to become invisible.

Your words are not heard, because you're a shade in the economy, a half-ghost visible by the half-life of economy you give off: the value you add, the product you make, the efficiency you provide.

The less of this you emanate, the less those denizens of the economy can see you.

Which is why poets don't exist in the economy at all...

Anyway, side point.

Main point: once you've overcome that feeling, that settlement with your new status, that existential accomodation – then you have to overcome the pragmatic situation.

And the economy is nothing if not pragmatic.

So, the reality is you can run a household on a part time wage, but you cannot segue from a full time wage household to a part-time wage household.

Over a three, four year period maybe.

But in six months? No chance.

So now you have to find a way to fashion a part-time period out of your full-time work and family week.

Where's that coming from then?

Here's my plan – if you have any suggestions for how to make this a reality I'm like Gogol's Nose, except I'm an ear – I'm all ears, is what I'm saying:

  • get up at 5
  • read in the morning
  • get the kids ready, do drop off with spouse
  • muse in the car/at work
  • lunch - write up some thoughts, sketch out any poems as appropriate
  • evening - go home, out girls to bed, read before bed
  • sleep at 9.30/10
  • repeat

Then have "Edit Power Morning" either Saturday or Sunday morning, where I can spend four hours making use of what I've come up with during the week.

Tell me I'm not crazy.

Tell me this will work.

Tell me how you'd do it.

Would love to hear any (and ideally all three) of the above.

  (( ))

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