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  • Writer's pictureMilena Williamson


Updated: Sep 14, 2022

Hello again!

Today, I’m bringing back another favorite series, where I dive into PhD world and give you a glimpse of what it’s like doing a three-to-four-year-long creative project.

What with the pandemic being over a year, a lot has changed. There’s a lot about The Before that I miss—poetry readings in the pub, hugging people, touching everything in bookstores without worrying. But there’s also been some unexpected delights about the increasingly digital era.

For example, through digital reading series and festivals, I’ve been able to meet and to hear the work of international poets, some of whom may have never been to the island of Ireland. This year, I’ve been in Zoom poetry readings with Tishani Doshi, Terrance Hayes, Anne Carson, Sharon Olds and more! If you’re looking for new poets to check out, I’d highly recommend all of them!

And no matter what your work is, I know we’ve all been tempted to pull the ‘oh no, my internet is on the fritz’ trick on a particularly sunny day, skive off work and go get an iced coffee.

One exciting digital development that happened recently was that I was interviewed on the QUB Voices podcast.

QUB Voices postgraduate podcast logo

I know what you’re thinking— ‘don’t you need to go into a studio to record a podcast?’ Nope! Thanks to a combination of Microsoft Teams video recording and smart phone audio recorders, we were able to record our audio separately, each from our own homes, and splice it together (well someone else did the splicing, I’m not that technologically savy).

I did get to transform my room into a mini studio or ‘temporary soft room,’ which involved putting blankets over the walls, desk and floor to improve audio quality. Yes, I did make a blanket fort for work.

See above for a not very good photo showing my recording set up as I squeezed myself in between the book tower (for putting my phone at mouth-height), blankets and laptop without getting tangled in my headphones OR my computer charger...all while still being able to see my notes! A real challenge for someone as clumsy as me! (I’m no ballerina, but maybe I’ve found my true calling as a bloggerina!).

Being a guest on QUB Voices (check them out on Twitter!) was a vital part of my research journey. The podcast gave me the opportunity to reflect on the work I had done over the past two years and to imagine my next steps. It challenged me to summarize my PhD for a general audience and helped me feel confident doing so! Most importantly, QUB Voices helped me remember that putting my own voice – my research – out into the world is part of what makes a PhD so meaningful.

It was also a little overwhelming to feel like I was in the hotseat as the ‘expert.’ I still have a lot to learn about all the complex issues that my PhD engages with: American military culture, the draft, conscientious objection, toxic masculinity, gender discrimination, misogyny and more.

I know those are quite big ideas, but my lyric poems are grounded in the everyday—conversations with my parents, cleaning my kitchen, running in the gym, etc. They are family history poems, archival poems, love poems, epistolary poems and more. I can't wait to share more of them with you all when they're out in the world!

A huge thank you to everyone who works on QUB Voices! It was a pleasure to share my research journey with you. A special thank you to Ciara Gorman for her questions, her attention and her care. Have a listen to the podcast below!

And here are some Show Notes I’ve written for the episode to help you learn a little more about my research as you listen. I refer to these things over the course of the conversation:

What is the draft or conscription in the US?

What is conscientious objection in the US?

What is the Selective Service and why do men still register just in case of ‘a crisis requiring a draft’:

‘Women Should Have to Register for Military Draft, Too, Commission Tells Congress’:

The Congressional Commission (very long, see above NYT article for a succinct summary) which states, ‘That women register, and perhaps be called up in the event of a draft, is a necessary prerequisite for their achieving equality as citizens’:

ACLU challenge that requiring men but not women to register for the draft is sex discrimination:

Woman in a Tub by Edgar Degas:

Sending love an ocean away!


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