‘From mid September to November I undertook a placement in the English and Linguistics department of the University of Otago, New Zealand. The main purpose of the placement was career development as I’m pursuing my professional career in New Zealand, though it also gave me the time to pursue a poetry project which had developed out of my academic research. My role was therefore a very flexible one. As part of the placement I had agreed to present two papers, one to undergraduates, one to post graduates and staff, and also to deliver a five part seminar series, but while I was there I became involved in other departmental events as well. I took part in a number of poetics seminars and also led one of these myself, I took a master class with Rita Felski and attended departmental research papers.
Alongside my agreed contributions I found myself contributing my knowledge and stimulating discussion in many other areas of the department’s academic life and I felt that I was giving something back to the university which had kindly agreed to host me. The activities I undertook during my placement also had specific and significant benefits for my research. The master class with Rita Felski presented new approaches to reading critically which aligned nicely with my own existing approach, giving me a much better sense of direction and of where I fit as a critic within the meta-discourse. The poetics seminar I lead provided a new audience with which to think through one of the texts that I would later analyse for the final chapter of my thesis, ultimately improving that analysis. But I felt that my work benefited the department as well as myself; the feedback from my seminar series was unanimously positive, and it was clear that the approach to creative practice (which I explored in those seminars) had been beneficial to my students, presenting new perspectives and facilitating a much deeper look into their personal poetics. I also had the opportunity to engage with the public through my creative writing; I gave a reading of my work at a long-standing literature event run by Lynley Edmeades, a poet and Otago student, and I also appeared on Dunedin public radio to talk about my poetry.
Through this I was able to make connections with Dunedin Creative Cities and local poets as well as with the academics and students within the faculty at Otago. This in turn enabled me to connect with other institutions including the Nelson and Marlborough Institute of Technology. Over the course of my placement I was made to feel that I was a valuable addition to the faculty, I learned a lot about the academic environment there and I think that the experience gave me a good grounding for a future career in academia in New Zealand. Not only that but the time allowed for my work was very productive and I made a lot of headway with my writing, and this gives me something concrete to offer as a poet in New Zealand. The placement showed me the value of giving back to the host institution, I got a lot out of this placement personally, but for those students considering a placement, I would recommend considering what you have to offer your host and what sort of relationship you might be able to forge between the host and your own institution.’