A scholar is someone who takes a position. From which position, certain lines become visible. You will at first think I am painting the lines myself; it’s not so. I merely know where to stand to see the lines that are there
– Anne Carson, Plainwater Essays.
A scholar is also someone ‘who knows how to limit himself to the matter at hand’, writes Carson, and I might add: perhaps sometimes to their own detriment. It can be so easy to get tunnel vision when you’re doing a PhD but this is a desperate call for PhD students, from humanities or otherwise, to see the value in their sister-fields, to not be a mad puritan like I was and to give into any seemingly incongruous thing that sparks their interest.
For far too long I only read things I deemed beneficial to my research. They had to be linked. Not tangentially, but obviously, irrefutably linked. Not only did it make me miserable, it stunted my growth as a writer. Anyone who works with language knows the wealth of words you’re consuming flows through you and back onto the page as you write. I needed to hear from other disciplines, I needed some surrealist erotica, I needed some random 18th century history. It allows you to approach your own topic with a new fervour. Instead I had been starving my own vocabulary by denying it sustenance.
My topic is experimental poetry. I fell in love with experimental poetry because it was a welcome departure from traditional lyricism. But when this has become your job and you are reading experimental poetry day-in day-out for work, you do not want to come home and sit down with Stein’s Tender Buttons. You just don’t. It doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate it. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for it in your life anymore. But they don’t say ‘variety is the spice of life’ for nothing. Recently I’ve tried to treat my instagram as a kind of visual library of my favourite reads and I’m proud of the diverse authors and subjects it catalogues.
I mistook single-mindedness for dedication, when in fact it’s a bore. It’s unnecessary. everything is linked, of course it is. You only have to stand where you can see the lines.