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Meet the Doctors: Tara Bergin

How many times have you been to a literature event and a person in the audience has asked the person on stage ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ We’ve just discovered the answer.

The Poetry School’s forthcoming Is There A Doctor in the House? event is the place writers (you) get their ideas from. We’ve invited eight recent and current poetry PhD candidates to share their discoveries with Poetry School students in order to spark off a whole new generation of writing and performing ideas. The day itself takes place in London, but there will be all sorts of additional videos and reports taking place in CAMPUS

To celebrate, we’ve asked all our poet-tutors for a little behind-the-scenes info about their sessions, and we begin with Tara Bergin. Tara is a Carcanet-published poet whose PhD took shape among the archives of Bloodaxe Books.

Tara, tell us a bit about your PhD.

Tara: I completed my PhD in 2013. It was on Ted Hughes’s translations of the post-war Hungarian poet János Pilinszky. I was interested to see if Hughes’s work as a translator had any influence on his own writing, especially his collection Crow.

Tell us a bit about what you’re planning to offer in your lecture / workshop?

Tara: My ‘lecture’ is actually the showing of a film which I took part in making. It is about the Bloodaxe Poetry Archive at Newcastle University.

My workshop brings the idea of ‘archives’ into the realm of the creative imagination. As a literature PhD student who was also a poet, I was constantly seeing the creative possibilities in things like archives – something which often distracted me from the task at hand.

How are your studies affecting your writing?

Tara: Writing academic criticism does not come easily to me, and it is a real struggle for me to express my thoughts and findings in a clear and linear way. As a result, I have had to work extremely hard to develop my analytical skills and my ability to criticize my own writing, from an objective point of view. This, and having to read a lot and research a lot, does take time away from the actual act of writing, but it is also invaluable for my development. There is always a battle to find the time to write, but as long as you do find some time, the battle can lead to something exciting.

What’s been the best ‘eureka’ moment in your research?

Tara: Finding a letter from Ted Hughes about his favourite type of poetry. For copyright reasons I can’t write here what it says, but I will be talking about it at my secret archive workshop.

Which other lectures / workshops are you going to sit in on at the festival?

Tara: I can’t bear to choose, I want to go to all of them.

Are you going to put ‘Dr’ on your credit cards?

Tara: No. But I have considered making a t-shirt that says ‘Trust Me’ on the front…


PhD Festival Poster

Is There a Doctor in the House? — 15 March 2014 — 10am until 5:30pm

1901 Arts Club, 7 Exton Street, London SE1 8UE

A full programme of lectures and workshops is available here. To book, visit or ring 0207 582 1679


Tara Bergin was born and grew up in Dublin. She moved to England in 2002. In 2012 she completed her PhD research at Newcastle University on Ted Hughes’s translations of János Pilinszky. Her debut collection, This Is Yarrow, was published last year by Carcanet.

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Image credit: Virginia Sanderson