NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

How life gets in: poem and essay

BY ANNE M. CARSON – Disrupting, interrupting and sometimes derailing study in both welcome and unwelcome ways; life gets into PhD projects in a plethora of ways, so much so that there often seems to be no hard boundary between them. This essay uses the example of synchronicity as one way that ‘life gets in’.

Analytic Psychologist Carl Jung names synchronicity as an “acausal connecting principal” (Cambray, 411), which he contends connects psychic phenomena with happenings in the external world in meaningful ways. To examine one of my own experiences of synchronicity which was germane to my PhD project, I draw on Ross Gibson’s creative practice framework (Gibson, 3), ‘toggling’ between this particular example and a discussion of theories about how synchronicity occurs and unfolds.

The legacy of my synchronicity research is an expanded understanding of synchronicity, moving from a purely psychological standpoint to a broader understanding of it as a psycho-aesthetic occurrence. In its blurring of boundaries (temporally, and between self and world) it has contributed another source of meaning-making to my repertoire. Prior to undertaking research I considered that synchronicity just befell me, but now I know that certain orientations and conditions create a propensity for synchronicity generation.

It is hoped this essay with accompanying poems will become one chapter in a dedicated book arising out of my PhD research directed at a non-academic audience.

Read the poem + essay


Anne M Carson is an Australian poet, and essayist whose poetry has been published internationally, and widely in Australia, receiving numerous awards including longlisting for Fish International Poetry Prize (2023). Her fourth poetry book The Detective’s Chair was published Liquid Amber Press, 2023In 2018 Anne started a Masters in Creative Writing at RMIT and upgraded in 2019 to a PhD, writing a poetic biography of French novelist and utopian socialist George Sand. She was awarded an Outstanding Dissertation Prize from the Visual and Performing Arts AERA SIG in 2024.

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A Gathering.

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Literally In

BY KENDREA RHODES – This work is an audiovisual expression of the messiness of being me. A visual artist, a

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BY Carina Böhm, Didem Caia, Clare Carlin, Emilie Collyer, Ruth Fogarty
BY JOSHUA IP – The interrogation of practice is a common task faced by practice-based researchers. As a PhD candidate the Practice Research Symposium programme in the School of Media and Communications at RMIT, focusing on the discipline of Creative Writing, I have attempted to interrogate my wide-ranging practice as poet, editor and literary organiser for the past six years.
BY PATRICIA AMORIM — In my Palimpsest Series, I explore cultural identity from a feminist perspective through self-portraiture, drawing inspiration from the concept of a palimpsest and the work of Cuban artist Ana Mendieta.
BY JENNY HEDLEY – In this reflective essay, a time-poor single mother and PhD candidate accidentally takes on the role of basketball coach as she seeks to achieve balance between scholastics and life.
BY MICHAEL DONEMAN – Between is a reflection on loss and renewal. It interweaves personal, cultural, and environmental stories near the country where I live, by a waterway at the edge of the Boondall Wetlands called Cabbage Tree Creek.
BY CLAIRE WELLESLEY-SMITH – The use of textile as a creative recording method alongside my PhD (2023, The Open University) extended a practice I began in 2013. Stitch Journal is a long length of linen cloth, pieces added in sections.
BY SUSIE CAMPBELL – Before an unexpected brush with serious illness, the journey of my PhD research project seemed clear. I set out to engage with the avant-garde Modernist poetry of Gertrude Stein in order to draw on her experimental approach to language for my own processual model of poetic practice.
BY EMILY WOTHERSPOON – This piece is a reflection on how life, research, and creative practice become blurred and intertwined through the process of undertaking PhD creative writing practice research.
BY DANI NETHERCLIFT – This work, in alignment with the topic of my creative arts PhD regarding the elegiac lyric essay, is written with the conventions of the lyric essay, utilising white space, non-linearity, image, archive, fragment, association and braiding.
BY INDYANA HOROBIN – This is a short experimental article that engages with how life subsists within PhD study. It is styled as an interview with the self and is punctuated by interactions between the interviewers which descend into hostile conversations.
BY JENNY HICKINBOTHAM – Life didn’t GET IN to my PhD research, my life IS my PhD research.
BY KENDREA RHODES – This work is an audiovisual expression of the messiness of being me. A visual artist, a writer, doctoral researcher, and a psychiatric survivor.
BY ISABELLA G. MEAD – This creative response to ‘How Life Gets In’ details my experience maintaining a creative practice while also being a PhD candidate and a parent to young children.
BY LAINIE ANDERSON – Life didn’t get in the way of my PhD. Death did. Or more specifically, it was South Australia’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill (2020).
BY DANTE DeBONO – ‘Degrees of separation’ is a reflective consideration of the ways in which creators navigate the complexity of their internal writing processes as unique configurations of their lived experiences.