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Sunday, August 30, 2009


Paring down a dissertation into lines of haiku

Now, I know why I do not write my blog entries in advance...for days like this. I just stumbled across a fun reading on Huffington Post. While I haven't checked out the "dissertation haiku" website yet, I found some amusing examples in this article. I knew I wanted to write about academic writing today, as that's all I have on my mind right now, between all the rounds of final edits I have on articles and a book review at the moment. It's a tad hard to think outside of that proverbial box.

That's the thing with those of us who write in academic circles. We take forever with our work (for example, this book review was submitted late last year and is only now going to print soon). When exhaustion or ennui with a given topic sets in, we get really silly. I remember in graduate school, doing something similar when I just felt I couldn't get anywhere with a particular assignment. I would write short poems or rhymes about topics ranging from primates/monkeys (when studying biological anthropology) to quips about an exchange that day in class. These did what they needed to (make me laugh a minute and unwind), but did little to get the term paper to a more advanced level of intellectual inquiry. All the while, those files stored away on random USB/flash drives still make me chuckle all these years later. While this "dissertation haiku" shows how academic writers can pare down an entire dissertation/conclusion of a dissertation project in a form of few syllables/words, it got me thinking of how much "non-academic" writing comes into existence in graduate school and while writing dissertations that goes unread if it were not for a project such as this.

Therefore, while I never wrote a dissertation, I have had those moments where summing up an academic thought or worry in a haiku made the most sense and best use of my time. Having received yet another email incorrectly addressing me as a Dr. just yesterday from an academic publisher, I can only hope someday, after starting a doctoral program and birthing a behemoth dissertation (as the analogy of writing a dissertation is often giving birth to a child), I could make a nice contribution to this dissertation haiku project. It would only be an apropos way to celebrate the rite of passage.

Now, the question begs to be asked. Are there similar sites where you all go to write out some silly lines to stave off frustrations and writer's block moments outside of academia/university circles in a public environ (not for competition or financial gains, but rather, just to show your humor)? If so, feel free to leave the URLs/website addresses for others who may need that same type of laughing moment currently. After all, all of us probably have some random "haiku" written in a miscellaneous folder on our computers or on scrap paper by our desks. That or it's something we should all start to do.


Blogger zxcvbnm said...

Why are you surprised?
Haiku is distilled beauty...
Tell it like it is!

11:50 AM  
Blogger Alison L. McKee said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:05 PM  
OpenID deluzy said...

I'm an academic and I maintain a *non*-academic writing blog (under a pseudonym) specifically to Maintain My Sanity and Preserve My Sense of Humor. ;)

HD Silversmith

6:10 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Thanks for the comments and I was wondering how many academic-types had blogs for just this purpose!

6:58 AM  
Blogger Linda said...


Having received my M.Ed. just a little over a year ago, I concur with your comments! (Doesn't that sound academic?)

As a writer with many years of experience, it drove me crazy to be told that I "had" to write academically in order to get published. Why I asked must I use words like hegemony when I really want to say oppression?

The answer was, "It sets us apart from mere writers." (Ooops...did I hear that correctly? Did this really come from an institution espousing social justice? Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't this smack of elitism?)

I haven't checked out the dissertation haiku, yet, but I will. I am thrilled to hear that someone else understand how preposterous academia can be.

5:36 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

To Linda. I agree. My discipline is particularly in love with obtuse terms; it drove me up a wall trying to learn it, even more so, to use it. It is especially the case when there are lots of cool people "on the outside (of academia)" to talk with about archaeology and anthropology concepts...why exclude the discourse just because they're not in academia?

You'll have to let me know what you think of the haiku site, and also if you're ever into talking more about academic writing, feel free to email me!

1:04 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

I LOVED the haiku site. What a brilliant way to write creatively about a dissertation...birthing one of those babies is more than just an accomplishment!

I would love to chat about academic writing. I'll email you soon.

Peace, Linda

1:45 PM  

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