In this chapter, I explicate the engagement of poetic expression as research analysis to understand more deeply and to represent more rigorously the experience of research participants within educational research. As a tool of analysis, poetry has the strength to disrupt expectations and invite multiple interpretations of research. Here, I articulate a methodology for engaging poetic expression fully as a tool of narrative research to reach beyond textual analysis and representation of participants’ conversations into a deeper expression of their stories to live by. Poetic expression of narrative research is the particular emphasized, which is to say that meaning-making facilitated by poetic expression relies on a consistent and minute focus on the particular. Through poetic expression of research, thoroughly member-checked by participants, I surface and make evident my position as a researcher within the research. This chapter identifies ways in which poetic expression of research invites voice on multiple levels. The poetic expression of research within a narrative inquiry makes visible the experience of the research as an unfolding experience itself for the participant, the researcher, and the reader. I demonstrate the ways in which infusing a narrative inquiry with the poetic expression of research provokes the researcher as well as the reader to draw deeply on personal experience to make sense of the research. Furthermore, poetic expression of research invites participation from readers to engage poetically with the research and become a subsequent co-participant/researcher as they make sense, themselves, of the poetic expressions of research.
Clarke, C.L. (2019), "Writing the Borderlands: Poetic Expression and Narrative Inquiry as Methodology Inhabiting the Space between Narrative Inquiry and Poetic Expression", Landscapes, Edges, and Identity-Making (Advances in Research on Teaching, Vol. 33), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 53-78. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-368720190000033007Download as .RIS
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Sometimes you want to stare
at chipped polish on your toenail
without the stir of thoughts into action and repair.
Sometimes you want to hear
your own breath in the night,
your own echo down the hall.
Peace comes in single threads
left to dangle
when even wind is sensitive
(Clarke, 2018c, p. 33)
(Clarke, 2018c, p. 33)
In this chapter, I explicate the engagement of poetic expression as research analysis to understand more deeply and to represent more rigorously the experience of research participants within educational research 1 . As a poetic inquirer grounded in narrative inquiry, I understand the strength of poetry to disrupt expectations and invite multiple interpretations of research. Poetic expression moves beyond representation to the analysis of field texts and research conversations poetically, employing fully the tools of the poet in the service of sense-making. This chapter articulates a methodology for engaging poetic expression fully as a tool of narrative research to reach beyond textual analysis and representation of participants’ conversations into a deeper expression of their stories to live by (Connelly & Clandinin, 1999).
Connelly and Clandinin (2006) stated, “To use narrative inquiry methodology is to adopt a particular view of experience as phenomena under study” (p. 477). Pinnegar (2006) also recognised the dual nature of narrative inquiry as both a methodology and a phenomenon of study “that provides insight into human interaction” (p. 176). Narrative inquiry is a methodology that views experience narratively. Connelly and Clandinin (1988) also described narrative inquiry as a methodology that:
conceives of schooling as an expression of personal and social narrative history. The questions asked by those who hold a narrative perspective focus on the meaning that specific actions hold in terms of participants’ personal and social history. (p. 109)
Furthermore, the narratives that participants share about themselves indicate what they think about themselves as learners and curriculum makers as well as reveal how they perceive themselves to fit within the circle of curricular opportunities provided to their classmates or even within the larger community as a whole (Clandinin et al., 2006; Murphy, 2004).
I recognize myself in the description Pinnegar and Daynes (2007) gave of narrative inquirers as “researchers [who] usually embrace the assumption that the story is one if not the fundamental unit that accounts for human experience” (p. 4). I understand my own world through a narrative lens, recognizing innately the narrative nature of experience and seeking to make sense of life experiences in the context of my own life story – what it seemed to be, what it seems to be, what it seems to be becoming. While my research wonderings about life and learning on the edges of community have come into sharper focus over the years, they are an extension of wonderings I have sustained through my own experiences as a child who did not fit in, an adult who struggled to find a place for herself in the world, and an educator who began to awaken to the fundamentally human nature of those experiences. As a teacher working primarily in the area of special education, I observed both lived and told stories of children and adults who felt on the edges of community, people whose experiences of not fitting in seemed at once both varied and profoundly similar. Pinnegar and Daynes posited, “Narrative inquiry begins in experience as expressed in lived and told stories” (p. 5). For those of us who slowly awaken to the stories around us, both in our own lives and in the lives of those we are in relationship with, engaging in narrative inquiry as a research methodology is a natural fit with the established rhythms of our wonderings.
Narrative inquiry is also a good fit for me personally because of my comfort working with words and my background in writing. Pinnegar and Daynes (2007) noted “the move to words as data” (p. 3) is a predominant component of narrative inquiry. Because I am a writer and a poet, collecting narratives, exploring experience through narratives, examining and searching for deeper understanding through narratives have all been ongoing passions in both my personal and professional lives. I sensed the convergence of these various identities in my focus on narrative inquiry shaped by the poetic expression of research.
Part of the reason narrative inquiry is so effective at exploring personal experience is that it is a natural way of exploring the world, a way closely connected to individual experience. As a narrative inquirer, my focus is on experience understood by Dewey as grounded in continuity, situation, and interaction (Clandinin & Rosiek, 2007). For Dewey (1938):
the principle of continuity of experience means that every experience both takes up something from those which have gone before and modifies in some way the quality of those which come after. (p. 35)
In addition to continuity, Dewey’s understanding of experience also included the notions of situation and interaction. Dewey thought of interaction as the interplay between the social and the personal. However, the understanding of the interplay between the social and the personal cannot be separated from the situation of the experience. In Dewey’s words, “An experience is always what it is because of a transaction taking place between an individual and what, at the time, constitutes his environment” (p. 43).
Language is part of what identifies people as human – it is essential to human experience (Baldwin, 2005), and language, itself, is the expression of experience. Baldwin went on to say story “is not opinion; story is experience” (p. 46). As Pinnegar and Daynes (2007) argued, to incorporate language into the research methodology through narrative inquiry is to give prominence to a particular experience, to honour the experience of the individual. By extension, poetic expression of narrative research is the particular emphasized, which is to say that meaning-making facilitated by poetic expression relies on a consistent and minute focus on the particular. The narrative nature of experience lends itself to exploration through inquiries that attend to the particular, to the storied nature of experience, and to methods and methodologies that embrace multiple ways of understanding the world.
King (2003) said, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are” (p. 153). This is consistent with a narrative inquiry approach to exploring experience. King, like Clandinin and Connelly (2000), suggested that our identities are narratively constructed. What is the truth of who we are? It is in the stories we tell about ourselves, the stories that people tell about us, in the stories we act by, and the stories we tell in our actions. Story becomes the warp and weft of all experience – it weaves its way through every moment. Stories are central to understanding the nuances of human interactions in any context. Additionally, the really powerful stories are the ones that shift our perceptions and invite us to look in different directions from the directions and perspectives with which we are comfortable. Furthermore, infusing a narrative inquiry with the poetic expression of research provokes the researcher as well as the reader to draw deeply on personal experience to make sense of the research. The poetic expression of research within a narrative inquiry makes visible the experience of the research as an unfolding experience itself for the participant, the researcher, and the reader.
Clandinin and Caine (2013) wrote that the quality of narrative inquiry is determined by the multiple commitments that we make to the process, in particular “an extensive commitment to writing as a way to inquire” (Richardson, 2003, as referenced in Clandinin & Caine, 2013, p. 178). Through my explorations of narrative inquiry methodology, I came to realize that the writing I have done daily for years involved the telling and retelling of experiences using the same methods employed by narrative inquiry methodology. By immersing myself in a daily practice of writing my own experience, I grew comfortable with a narrative way of thinking and reflecting on experience. In many ways, I have been a reflective participant-observer all along, composing field texts through my daily writing. In referring to the researcher as a participant-observer, Clandinin and Connelly (2000) stated:
Always, for learning to occur, the inquirer in this ambiguous, shifting, participant observation role is meeting difference; allowing difference to challenge assumptions, values, and beliefs; improvising and adapting to the difference; and thereby learning. (p. 9)
In the same way, narrative inquiry forces me to engage in a relational level with people and with the stories that they tell. Nelson (1995) argued, “Our responsibilities, it would seem, extend beyond what we choose to what chooses us: to the people and things that need our care and attention” (pp. 36–37). In the same way, narrative inquiry was a natural fit, a methodology that seemed to connect with my already established practice of reflection through writing. Through a daily practice of reflective writing, I began to make sense of my own experiences and the experiences of those around me.
For me, more than any of the other combination or isolation of research methodologies, poetic expression and narrative inquiry share an emphasis on attending to the importance of the relationship. Connelly and Clandinin (2006) wrote:
Likewise, Brady (2009) wrote, “poets write in and with the facts and frameworks of what they see in themselves in relation to Others, in particular landscapes, emotional and social situations” (p. xiv, emphasis in original). By adopting the methodological perspective of a narrative inquirer and then engaging poetic expression to articulate my always-partial understanding, I attended to the importance of bringing myself, my whole self, into relationship with my participants and my readers. Engaging in poetic expression of research keeps me grounded to who I am and makes evident my presence in the inquiries in which I engage. Utilizing narrative inquiry while engaging poetic expression ensures that I stay connected relationally to my participants and focused on their experiences throughout.
Narrative inquirers, particularly in living studies, are in relationship: negotiating purposes, next steps, outcomes, texts, and all manner of things that go into an inquiry relationship. Inquiry questions and texts are ones in which inquirers give an account of who they are in the inquiry and who they are in relation to participants. (p. 480)
The Importance of Metaphor
Clandinin and Connelly (1992) drew on the work of Schön (1979) as well as Lakoff and Johnson (1980) to assert “metaphors are no mere ‘anomalies of language’ but are instead expressions of living” (Clandinin & Connelly, 1992, p. 369). Clandinin and Connelly went further to assert the importance of metaphor in understanding teacher narratives by stating, “we and other teachers are, in an important sense, living our images and metaphors” (p. 369). Through the study of literature and in my work as a narrative inquirer engaged in poetic expression of research, I came to appreciate the ways in which metaphors shift our meaning-making and open up possibilities for understanding that would not exist otherwise. For narrative inquirers, the analysis of metaphors that emerge from narratives is an essential component of unpacking those narratives to achieve a deeper understanding of how they inform participants’ identities. Attending to metaphor within the narratives of my participants was an important part of my analysis of their narratives, especially in the ways the metaphors that emerged intersected with their identity-making, curriculum making, and their positioning within community. Zwicky (1995) postulated:
As Zwicky suggested, metaphor both reveals and conceals. As narrative inquirers, it is important to attend both to the ways metaphor reveals meaning and to the ways metaphor conceals meaning.
This may also be thought of as the problem of metaphor: that metaphor’s truth, its charge of meaning, depends on the assertion of identity and difference, on erotic coherence and referential strife, on meaning as resonance and meaning revealed through analysis. (p. 53)
Poetry as a form inherently draws on metaphor as a sense-making device. Brady (2009), referencing Gibbs (1994), pointed out that metaphor is a commonly employed method of understanding experience, both in poetics and in research. Brady stated, “There is more than one way to see things, to say things, and therefore to know things, each inviting different points of entry into the research equation” (p. xiii). Bateson (1994) also emphasized complexity and ambiguity as necessary components of learning. She talked about the human propensity for metaphor and how a metaphor can both obscure and create deeper understanding. Through the poetic expression of meaning-making in a narrative inquiry, metaphor creates multiple layers of understanding and provides multiple entry points into the experiences described. At the same time, the use of metaphor through poetic expression also places a deeper demand on the reader to reach back into individual experience to make sense of the experiences described. In this way, metaphor through poetic expression transforms research texts into living documents not only co-composed by the researcher and participants but also recomposed by the readers as they bring their own understandings and interpretations to the poems shared as part of the inquiry into the participants’ experiences.
Choosing Poetic Expression: Poetry as Research
The metaphorical nature of the way we live out experience makes poetic expression of research especially effective as a tool to gain insight into participants’ experiences. As a methodology, the discipline of poetic inquiry relies heavily on the examination of metaphor to deepen our understandings of narrative moments (Richardson, 1993). By applying aspects of poetic inquiry to the analysis of research expressed poetically, I have been able to reach a deeper understanding of the participants’ experiences. Because I identify myself primarily as a narrative inquirer, I do not consider my methodology to be strictly poetic inquiry. Poetic inquiry is a developing methodology employing a wide variety of poetic techniques to make meaning in research. While my use of poetic expression of research could be viewed as a version of poetic inquiry, I identify as a poet-researcher engaged in narrative inquiry.
Other narrative inquirers have also used poetry within their research (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Clandinin et al., 2006; Huber, Murphy, & Clandinin, 2011; Young et al., 2012). My methods of poetic expression are unique in that they engage a poetic creative process to express my meaning-making of participants’ narratives. In reflecting on and writing about participants’ narratives, I shift constantly between my identity as a poet and my identity as a researcher. As a result, the poems I include in my research function as interim research texts while, at the same time, stand independently as poems. As such, the poems also function as research texts. I engage in a rigorous creative process to write each poem and then in a process of co-composition with participants to ensure that the participants support my poetic expressions of their experiences. Member-checking through co-composition with participants creates the space for a creative dialogue between myself and the participants. In the silences created by the poetic expression of narratives, participants are able to share forward-looking stories that further deepen our understanding of their experiences. It is metaphor within the poetic expression of research that provides the gaps or silences in expression that further invite wondering and meaning-making during the member-checking process of this inquiry.
Unpacking Narratives to Gain Deeper Understanding
Rarely are there neat and tidy endings to our stories. The narratives continue even though we might pause in our reflections. Some moments, for reasons we do not always understand or understand immediately, echo through our lives long after the moment is a memory being told and retold as part of our personal mythology. My use of the term personal mythology is meant to evoke the narrative inquiry cycle in which narratives are lived, told, retold, and relived in an ongoing, shifting process (Clandinin, 2013). Personal narratives, the stories a person tells and lives by, create a kind of mythology of identity which is neither fixed nor static. Like mythology, a person’s identity is ever-evolving as one continues to engage in meaning-making through the telling and retelling of her/his stories.
We dwell in the spaces between our narratives, in the interstitial process of becoming that is ever-ongoing. Clandinin and Connelly (2000) said, “we need to consider the voices heard and the voices not heard” (p. 147). This reminds me of Schwab’s (1973, 1983) contention that curriculum making is as much about what we leave out as it is about what we include. Clandinin and Connelly suggested, “Our silences, both those we choose and those of which we are unaware, are also considerations of voice in our research texts” (p. 147). This becomes particularly important as I consider notions of positioning within communities. Often I wonder about who has the agency to ask questions, what voices carry the privilege of speaking and who distributes that privilege? Who decides who is allowed to speak and who cannot speak? In narrative inquiry, the researcher negotiates with the participants the voices shared in the research text in a co-construction of understanding. As I listen to the transcripts of my participants’ stories, as I retell those stories and write about the meaning I make of their stories, I continually seek the input of my participants. Together we determine what stories will be told as well as how they will be told. In this way, we engage in an egalitarian co-construction of meaning in a community of shared understanding.
Inconclusivity: The Open-ended Question
Poetic expression and narrative inquiry share a dedication to keeping the moment of wondering open and inconclusive (Brady, 2009; Pinnegar, 2006). Pinnegar identified wondering as a tool for narrative research that expands “the more traditional idea of research findings” (p. 178) by inviting and enabling “readers to reimagine the story being lived, connect the story to their own lived experience in schools [and] rethink research, schools, and lives” (p. 179). The idea of engaging in wonderings as opposed to answering a research question or questions is unique to the methodology of narrative inquiry. Through open-ended wondering “the researcher holds the reader in a narrative space of inconclusivity” (Pinnegar, 2006, p. 179). Narrative inquiry does not seek a definitive answer but rather moves fluidly through a three-dimensional narrative inquiry space (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000) to better understand the nuances of lived experience.
Holding a space of inconclusivity open is necessary when examining the storied lives of research participants as they interact in relation to each other and to me as a researcher and co-participant. As researchers, we are in medias res – in the middle of things. Narrative inquirers enter the living, evolving stories of our research participants while they are already in progress and we exit those lived experiences in the middle as well. We move back and forth between our own experience of the research, or what Clandinin and Connelly (2000) call the experience of research, and the storied lives of our research participants. Accepting, allowing, and even embracing that space of in-between-ness (Aoki, 2005b, 2005c) opens up the opportunity for a deeper understanding of particulars of our research participants, and our own, lived curriculum.
Jackson (1992) made the point that all understanding, regardless of how thorough or thoughtful, is at best partial. We are never through with the study of curriculum making or identity-making or life and learning on the edges of community because we can never fully grasp every aspect of these experiences; being grounded in experience, human endeavours are, by their very nature, complex and difficult to encapsulate. Narrative inquiry as a methodology understands that individuals defy definition despite our best efforts. The tension created by the inconclusivity of attending to the particular rubs up against reductionist and formalistic notions of how research ought to reach some all-encompassing conclusion (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). Jackson asked us to consider a benefit arising from tension, “Might it be that some of the conflict […] constitutes a healthy tension that needs to be preserved and managed rather than eliminated or resolved” (p. 4)? Jackson understood that people are more complex than any single view can articulate. He recognized the tension that all of us hold within us as individuals who lean a particular way or face a particular direction but who also hear voices from all directions and consider, even incorporate, those ideas into our own thinking. Adichie (2009) warned us of the danger of the single story and its propensity to create stereotypes that are incomplete. Adichie said, “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign but stories can also be used to empower and humanize.” Jackson and Adichie remind me of the importance of holding the inquiry open and resisting the urge to generalize our emerging understanding.
As a narrative inquirer shaping her understanding through the poetic expression of research, I think about how to hold the uncertainty, the inconclusivity, of multiple stories close as I write. I wonder how to stay with the tension of those moments without giving in to the seemingly ingrained impulse to declare a certainty. Goldberg (2013) said, “[B]ehind our words are no words. We have to know about silence […]. And behind our stories are no stories” (p. 130). For me the compelling stories are the stories not told, the stories behind or underneath the stories told, and the silences in narrative moments. As a researcher attempting to articulate my emerging understanding, it remains a challenge to allow the silences to resonate with meaning. Poetic expression helps me to allow the silences to speak.
Retelling through Poetry: Poetry as Experience
The living, telling, retelling, and reliving cycle (Clandinin, 2013) are foundational to narrative inquiry. In my work, I contend there is a unique relationship between retelling narratives and the poetic expression of research. Poetry is an experience filtered through the mind and heart of the poet and, as such, it functions as a retelling of experience both inside and outside of research contexts. In her personal memoirs, the New Zealand writer and poet Janet Frame (2008) recognized the power of retelling to transform the significance of the stories we tell and the stories told about us:
Frame articulated here a sentiment that also lies at the heart of narrative inquiry – understanding emerges from the telling and retelling of narratives. Frame understood how such retellings are, by their nature, a “mixture of fact and truths” (p. 8). As I evoked earlier in my use of the term personal mythology, identity shifts and changes as individuals gain deeper insight through the telling and retelling of personal narratives. As narrative inquirers we also understand this and, as a result, we are interested in the significance of the stories told, the ways in which they illuminate the identity of the research participants and/or our own understandings of ourselves as well as the contexts in which we find ourselves. We do not seek a singular truth but rather a deeper understanding of particular experience. As educational researchers engaging in narrative inquiry, we are also interested in the educational significance suggested by a particular experience.
From the first place of liquid darkness, within the second place of air and light, I set down the following record with its mixture of fact and truths and memories of truths and its direction always toward the Third Place, where the starting point is myth. (p. 3)
The poetic expression of narratives is, in its very form, a retelling of narrative. The inconclusivity inherent in poetic expression as well as the participatory nature of poetic expression invites multiple opportunities for meaning-making. It encourages movement away from a single story to multiple stories. Poetry is meant to be read and re-read. Through narrative inquiry, the intention is repeated through unpacking the poetic expression to uncover the metaphorical and literal meanings as well as how those meanings bump up against the experiences of the researcher, the participants, and the readers. The unpacking of poetic expressions of research is not meant to express a single story of how to interpret experience but rather invites a participatory exploration of multiple stories of interpretation. We recognize that poetry, as a genre, encourages multiple analysis. The same can be true of prose, including academic prose, but there is a convention in understanding the meanings of academic prose to be static. Unpacking poetic expressions of research surfaces that convention and subverts it. Essentially, poetic expression enters the cycle of living, telling, retelling, and reliving at the retelling stage and creates a motivation to pause and examine more thoroughly the narratives of research participants as well as our meaning-making of those experiences for opportunities of multiple meaning-making and the embracing of inconclusivity.
My Critical Connection to Poetic Expression
Because I am a poet, I appreciate and recognize the efficacy of poetic expression of research both to complicate our thinking and to suggest rich meaning-making in our inquiries. Poetic expression is a tool of language that can be used in multiple ways to communicate across a variety of disciplines. Butler-Kisber and Stewart (2009) stated that poetry “can be used as an analytical or reflexive approach as well as a representational form in qualitative work. It is a form of inquiry” (p. 3). Poetic expression is critical to my sense-making process. My purpose in employing poetic expression is not purely aesthetic, although there is an aesthetic aspect to my poems. In crafting the poems, I play with the nuances of language to highlight the complexity of the medium. I employ poetic devices such as metaphor and analogy to engage the reader. I am also interested in the quality of the poetry. I strive to write what might be considered good poetry 2 . At the same time, in order to remain narrative in nature, my poetic expressions have experience at their core. I use poetry as a medium to explain my thought processes in unpacking the narratives, which allows me to suggest alternative understandings of experiences and the lived curriculum (Aoki, 2005a, 2005b, 2005c) that arises from those experiences.
Poetic expression of research within narrative inquiry demands a reframing, a shifting, of expectations when it appears in the context of educational research. To engage in poetic expression in educational research is to make prominent a form of expression not typically associated with educational research, a form that itself has been positioned on the edges of the educational research community. In this sense, employing poetic expression is a way for the methodology of my research to mirror my research wonders around life and learning on the edges of community. In the same way that I hope my research will challenge our assumptions about the way we position or are positioned in communities, the methodology I employ also challenges our assumptions about what is legitimate and what is not legitimate in terms of educational research. Furthermore, the use of poetic expression in narrative inquiry allows for the development of research texts which examine the position of the researcher and recognizes the researcher’s identity as both researcher and participant in relational narrative inquiry. As Richardson (1993) pointed out, “Poetry is thus a practical and powerful means for reconstitution of worlds” (pp. 704–705). Through poetic expression, in essence, I reconstitute my identity as both a poet and a scholar. Those identities are no longer separate. I recompose myself as a poet-researcher. I demonstrate through poetry that there is not and there ought not to be a single story of what it is to be a scholar.
Poetic expression of field texts, interim research texts, and research texts 3 combines the primary focus of poetic expression to evoke emotion with the primary focus of narrative inquiry to attend to the particular experience. Richardson (1993) identified poetry as uniquely capable as a form of exploring the open spaces of inquiry invited by a narrative perspective of research. She stated, “By setting words together in new configurations, the relations created through echo, repetition, rhythm, rhyme let us hear and see the world in a new dimension” (Richardson, 1993, p. 705). As I have mentioned, poetry, by its very nature, invites multiple understandings, multiple interpretations, and ultimately holds open the space of inquiry in inconclusivity – that is, it allows us to continue to inquire both into each research participant’s unfolding course of life and into our own. Poetry engaged in the service of research carries with it the weight of the poet-researcher’s experience and helps us understand more deeply the nuanced layers of that experience (Clarke & Murphy, 2015). Richardson (1993) said:
It is this potential for relating, merging, being a primary presence to ourselves and each other which makes possible the validation of transgressive writing, not for the sake of sinning or thumbing one’s nose at authority, nor for the sake of only and just writing poetry […] But for the sake of knowing about lived experiences which are unspeakable in the ‘father’s voice’, the voice of objectivity; flattened worlds. (p. 705)
Richardson’s recognition of the multi-dimensional nature of poetic expression to make a space for multiple understandings of experience echoes Adichie’s (2009) caution that we not flatten experience into a single story. Poetry is not the only way in which a narrative inquirer might express her emerging and multiple understandings and wonders; however, as a poet, it is my preferred form of expression and the one I am most competent at using to articulate my understanding.
What Is Poetry?
What, then, is poetry? As researchers, how can we be sure our poetic expressions of research are poetry? Like any form of art, poetry is effective only in its ability to convey meaning, to pull meaning out of the incomprehensible complexity of life by inviting, sometimes even forcing, unique perspectives previously ignored. Richardson (1993) argued for the use of poetic representation as an effective means of conveying both the complexity of identity-making and the complexity of the form of expression:
The form, then, mirrors the content. The complexity of poetry’s potential interpretations reflects the complexity of experience. The form invites multiple layers of meaning and understanding, making it extremely useful in conveying, even through its form, the complexity of our research participants’ stories to live by. Poetic expression of research is poetry at the very least in the ways in which the form breaks from the conventions of academic prose and invites layered understandings of the research. Furthermore, by choosing a form of representing field texts that emulated the inconclusivity of their interpretation, I continued to move through the fluid boundaries between myself and my research participants, between the experience and the experience of the experience (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000).
Self-Knowledge is reflexive knowledge. Poetic representation reveals the process of self-construction, deferrals and transformations, the reflexive basis of self-knowledge, the inconsistencies and contradictions of a life spoken as a meaningful whole. The poem is a whole which makes sense of its parts; and a poem is parts that anticipate, shadow, undergird the whole. That is poems can be experienced simultaneously as both whole and partial; text and subtext. (p. 704)
Poetry as Performance
While it is true that a poem must be performed via tone, voice, and nuanced presentation to be fully appreciated, the textural representation of a poem may also act to convey emotions, atmosphere, and multiple understandings. Through the poetic expression of research, I seek to evoke a strong emotional and experiential response from the reader. My research poems are written as reflections on past experiences, either of the participants, the researcher, or both. As such, they exemplify Dewey’s notion of continuity through their connection both with the past and the future (Clarke & Murphy, 2015). As Clarke and Murphy asserted, “The act of reading invites them [the readers] to lay their own experiences alongside the experience of the poem” (p. 34). As Clarke and Murphy also suggested, another aspect of poetry as a form is that it anticipates a future audience. In this sense, poetic expressions of research reach forward to a future audience who will experience the poem as a performance of the experiences described. In the same way, the act of writing poetic expressions of research is an act of deferred performance or, in narrative terms, a forward-looking story of experience.
Academic Border Crossing: Attending to the Poet and the Scholar
HOW DOES IT HAPPEN that no one who knows him now knows he has six children? How do years go by without some small phrase, an aside to indicate other lives connect to his, through blood, through family, through ten, fifteen, eighteen years they lived together when others learned from him how not to cry how to welcome exhaustion how to reject excuses How can entire lives shape themselves around his thoughts his words the constant presence of his disapproval until they couldn’t see where they began and he ended How can no one who knows him now not know he has six children or even just this one who gives her life to find he considers her so inconsequential no one who knows him (now) knows she is alive, that she breathes and hopes and wakes in the night fighting what it means to be the daughter of a man who forgets (does he forget?) that he is a father?
The poem How Does It Happen was written as a reflective interim research text written in response to conversations shared with one of the participants in my doctoral research about the lasting impact of familial curriculum making on identity-making. I wrote the poem to express, in part, the emotions associated with a sense of not belonging in my found community (Nelson, 1995) of family. As I worked with this poem through the revision process, it shifted in its importance from an interim research text to a research text. The process I used to explore and develop this poem within the context of my doctoral research shaped the process by which my research poems are now developed as poetic expressions of narrative research.
Initially, I took the poem How Does It Happen (Clarke, 2015) to one of my creative writing response communities. I provided each person there with a copy of the poem and explained that it was a poem from my research. I asked them to attend to two specific things in their feedback on the poem. First, I asked them to consider the following questions as they read and listened to me read the poem: What did they get or understand from the poem? What threads stood out for them? How were each of them making sense of the poem? Second, I asked them to attend to the quality of the poem’s crafting and to suggest ways in which I might improve the poem as a creative expression, as a poem both inside and outside of research considerations. I found the response community’s feedback extremely valuable. They were able to identify the metaphors and images in the poem that stood out for them as well as the major threads of the poem. It was valuable to engage the creative energy of a poetic response group as it gave me a strong sense of how people might make meaning from the poem. Their detailed responses to the poem provided a foundation for my own editing of the poem, moving it from an interim research text to a research text. In addition, my response community helped me to see where the structure and form of the poem enhanced the opportunities for meaning-making and where the structure and form detracted from those opportunities. Through this exchange of thoughtful response, I began to see where the poem was working as a strong poetic expression of research and where it was falling short. While the methods for eliciting feedback vary at times from the one described here, both my academic response communities and my creative response communities help me to ensure the poems I include in research meet a high literary standard as well as function as strong poetic expressions of research.
As the above example demonstrates, poetic expression has the potential to be a powerful expression of both interim research texts and research texts. Creating poems as interim research texts serves two purposes: it demonstrates a method for bridging the space between field texts and final research texts creating an interim research text (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000) and it provides a rich potential for analysis of field texts through poetic expression (Richardson, 2003, as cited in Clarke & Murphy, 2015, p. 32).
As an interim research text, its purpose is to illuminate the layers of experience that have been observed in the field texts and to suggest directions that our interpretations might take. (Clarke & Murphy, 2015, p. 32)
In my research, however, the poems created initially as interim research texts take on expressions of the research themselves to provide multiple opportunities for interpretation. In this way, the poems transform into research texts and become poetic expressions of research. At the same time, within a narrative inquiry it is not enough simply to present a poetic expression of research. The researcher must also unpack the poetic expression expanding on the experiences expressed in the interim research text of the poem in order to move the interim research text towards the final research text. At the same time, poems can also be considered research texts that express an understanding of experience while inviting multiple interpretations of that experience.
Moving from Methodology to Method
Understanding, then, the efficacy of representing research poetically, how does one begin to collect the field notes that evolve into the interim research texts and finally the research text? My doctoral research into the lives lived at the margins or on the edges of communities provided opportunities to put faces to the people commonly positioned as Marginalized. My perspective in designing this narrative inquiry, then, was to enter into relational research with people who were able to talk about not only their experiences on the edges of communities but also people who were willing to share the full breadth of their experiences in community – their life, their learning, their understanding of their lives expressed narratively.
Connelly and Clandinin (2006) contended the narrative inquirer must begin by imagining the life space of the narrative inquiry as an ever-shifting space in which experience exists along three continuums: temporal, personal, and existential. These make up the three-dimensional narrative inquiry space. As Connelly and Clandinin averred, “To plan a narrative inquiry is to plan to be self-consciously aware of everything happening within that space” (p. 481).
In order to attend to the living, telling, retelling and reliving of participants’ narratives in my doctoral research, I was interested in participants who were able to share memories of experiences and describe their current experiences. This underscored Dewey’s (1938) concept of continuity, that all experience is connected to experience that came before and experience that is yet to come. Clandinin and Connelly (2000) highlighted the necessity for field texts to be routinely and rigorously kept as well as being richly detailed. With that in mind, I collected field texts through regular conversations with participants occurring generally every other week in settings comfortable for the individual participants. Sometimes, I met in a participant’s home. Sometimes, we met in a coffee shop or at the University. Occasionally, I was invited to meet with a participant at their workplace. My interactions alongside participants were more frequent at the beginning of the inquiry and tapered off towards the end of the inquiry as I moved from meeting with participants to writing about their experiences. I did not formally interview participants. Although I did ask spontaneous questions to explore further the experiences shared by the participants, generally we engaged in open-ended conversations. I recorded these conversations, transcribed them, and analysed them from a narrative inquiry perspective.
A significant amount of analysis occurred during the transcription of research conversation recordings. I found that it was extremely valuable in terms of identifying common threads across the participants’ stories to transcribe the recordings myself. I kept a detailed field journal in which I reflected on my conversations with and observations of participants. I also made a note of my initial impressions of our transcribed conversations in the field journal as well, referring back to those notes often in the writing of interim research texts and my final research texts. Other field texts consisted of letters, emails, poems, and documents, as well as other personal artefacts shared by the participants. As I moved into the concentrated writing of my final research texts, I continued to meet with participants individually to member-check what I had written. This process of co-composition ensured that the participants were comfortable with the ways in which they were represented within the research text.
Locating Myself within the Inquiry
In the tableau of my own experience, I hold several facets of knowing that overlap and influence each other as I bring my focus onto a particular exploration or inquiry. I live within Pinnegar and Daynes’ (2007) blurred genres of knowing. Even as I engaged in the unpacking of the participants’ experiences, it is impossible for me to divorce my wonderings from the creative work I do with poetry or the teaching and preservice teacher supervision I do in my job as an Assistant Professor in the Program for the Education of Native Teachers (PENT) at Brandon University. In the same way that I approach identity as a complex and ongoing process, it was within a context of uncertainty and disjointed identity that I inquire into myself as a curriculum maker in order to provide a context for my identity as a researcher. I also employ poetic expressions of research to highlight the liminal nature of my identity as a researcher within the inquiry (Clarke, 2014). Poetic expression of research within a narrative inquiry is a rigorous and effective means of articulating the researcher’s location while, at the same time, recognizing how the shifting nature of identity requires a revisiting of the researcher’s perspective to remain connected to the ways in which the narrative inquiry continuously reshapes the researcher’s understandings (Clarke, 2014, p. 104). Connelly and Clandinin (2006) highlighted the importance of designing a narrative inquiry in which the researchers “deliberately imagine themselves as part of the inquiry” (p. 482). In my own research, I attend to the personal and relational connections between the participants’ experiences and my own experiences to keep myself clearly present in the inquiry as both a researcher and as a researcher-participant.
In my research, I am interested in examining the connections between a personal sense of being on the edges of community and a desire for narrative coherence by combining both narrative inquiry and poetic expression of research. This requires an ongoing examination of my own narrative beginnings to explore identity-making and curriculum making from the perspective of those living and learning on the edges of community. In addition, I lay the insights gleaned from my own autobiographical beginnings alongside the narratives of participants to explore how my personal understanding of life and learning on the edge of community has been altered or shaped by the relational research, I engage in with participants. By choosing poetry as a form of expression, I signal that I think of myself as a poet and that poetic expression is a legitimate tool for engaging in narrative analysis of field texts. I developed a narrative inquiry method using poetic expression that explored my own positioning as both a participant within the research and the researcher whose role was to facilitate the research experience.
I am the composite of the experiences I have had and the identities, disparate or otherwise, that have arisen out of them. I must bring them all to any moment of inquiry. “My research is situated in my understanding of my experience” (Clarke, 2014, p. 104). Narrative inquiry infused with poetic expression as a methodology suits my sometimes fragmented identity as a researcher and allows me to integrate all my disparate identities into the research as well as to engage in an inquiry that recognizes the full inventory of my experiences and identities. Even the inquiry influences the inquiry, which is to say that as a researcher and as research participants there is both the experience and “the experience of the experience” (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p. 289) or, as Baldwin (2005) put it, “in writing we live life twice: once in the experience, and again in recording and reflecting upon our experience” (p. 43). As I stated in an earlier article:
In my focus on retelling through poetry and the narrative unpacking of that poetry, I engage in a reliving of those experiences, as does the reader. I retell, and thus, relive my own experiences of exclusion, isolation, and perceived marginalization. (Clarke, 2014, p. 104)
A narrative inquiry methodology infused with poetic expression invites me to be who I am, to acknowledge who I am in my observations and analysis, and to make who I am a legitimate part of the process. Without an awareness of myself as a poet, I could not begin to understand myself as a teacher or as a curriculum maker, let alone as a researcher. Indeed, the act of writing is an act of reflection that shapes a way of being (Murphy, personal communication, February 2012). Poetic expression within the narrative inquiry, then, makes my acts of interpretation visible. Additionally, I have grown to understand that the use of poetic expression of research “allows us to speak differently about experience” (Clarke & Murphy, 2015, p. 31).
Relational Ethics and Narrative Inquiry
Connelly and Clandinin (2006) identified the connection between relational ethics and narrative inquiry as one of the key considerations when designing a narrative inquiry. Attending to the relational aspect of narrative inquiry means that I must constantly recognize my responsibility not to cause harm to my participants (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). I also must keep in mind that I have to strike a balance between the need to protect my participants from harm and the necessity of my research texts to “speak of how we lived and told our stories” (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p. 174) within the narrative inquiry. Maintaining this balance requires a heightened awareness of the relational aspect of narrative inquiry as well as an ongoing recognition of my own place within the study. Rather than imagining ourselves as standing apart from the research we do and from the research participants with whom we share these moments, narrative inquiry as well as the use of poetic expression, ask us to attend to our experiences and to recognize that they become part of the relational research we engage in the same way that we become part of that research experience. Clandinin and Connelly (2000) discussed the idea that “we are in the parade we presume to study” (p. 81). Clandinin and Connelly further suggested creating and/or collecting field texts is the action that allows the researcher to stay in close relationship with our research participants. Connelly and Clandinin (1999) suggested that the relational research engendered by narrative inquiry invites researchers and participants both to listen and to tell their stories together, creating a “changing organism composed of multiple nested stories interacting and changing over time” (p. 161). In this way, researchers and participants both come to understand the interconnectedness of their stories, their experiences, and the possibility for a deeper understanding of the interwoven nature of experiences (Clarke & Murphy, 2015). In narrative inquiry, we see a shift from the individual researcher creating research texts to a co-composition between researcher and researcher-participants that attends closely to relational ethics.
Narrative inquiry invites me to live in relationship with my research participants. Clandinin and Connelly (2000) recognized, “relationship is at the heart of thinking narratively” (p. 189). They also understood that relationships are paramount in any inquiry that proposes examining experience:
Narrative inquiry asks us to study with people. Pinnegar and Daynes (2007) shared this view, highlighting “the attention to relationships among participants” as one of the four shifts in perspective, or as they call it, turns, that researchers experience as they engage in narrative inquiry (p. 3). The relational ethics of narrative inquiry helped me to understand that it is only through relationship with my research participants that I can approach deep understanding of their experiences and the narratives they share about those experiences. Additionally, Clandinin and Connelly (2000) reminded me of the necessity of striking a balance between our ethical responsibilities to ourselves and our ethical responsibilities to others in the retelling of stories. Poetic expression helps me to approach that balance through its “ability concomitantly to subvert expectations and to expand understanding” (Clarke & Murphy, 2015, p. 31).
Narrative inquiry is the study of experience, and experience, as John Dewey taught, is a matter of people in relation contextually and temporally. Participants are in relation, and we as researchers are in relation to participants […] It is people in relation studying with people in relation. (p. 189)
Viewing Difference Differently: The Importance of Focusing on the Edges
Currently, living in the margins is portrayed almost exclusively as a negative consequence of life within a dominant community with little focus on the people who live these lives (Nelson, 1995). Are people positioned in the margins aware of their marginalization? Do they view themselves as positioned in the margins? How do the experiences of people positioned in the margins reflect the dominant narrative of marginalization? Might there be another way of viewing the life and learning that goes on in these spaces? Bateson (1994) asked us to consider:
It is perhaps because we have not learned to recognize and respect existing order in unfamiliar forms that we are frightened of social change, unwilling to support and work with the forms that peoples find for themselves. (p. 221)
As I engaged in the narrative inquiry discussed in this book, I wondered what forms of communities people who have been positioned on the edges of community might have developed to support their life and learning. I wondered how I might attend differently to the lives of people positioned on the edges of communities and how attending differently might effect change in educational practice. Clandinin and Caine (2013) stated, “neither researchers nor participants walk away from the inquiry unchanged” (p. 170). As I drew this inquiry to a close and negotiated an exit, however partial, I was moved by the ways in which I, personally and professionally, had been transformed by this experience. I view difference differently than I did before this inquiry and I wonder now how my participants’ perspectives might also have shifted.
Greene (1993) identified marginalization and exclusion as a “pestilence in our time” (p. 215) and called on teachers to act as “healers, if not saints” (p. 215) in their support of children. I also feel it is important to re-examine our assumptions of life and learning on the edges of community so that we might better understand how best to support children, both from within the education system and from without. Greene stated, “We require curriculum that can help provoke persons to reach past themselves and to become” (p. 220). My inquiries into life and learning on the edges of community confirmed for me that curricular reform to enhance inclusion begins by exploring the narratives that people positioned on the edges of community tell about their life and learning in those spaces. In particular, what counterstories have they developed to support their life and learning? Nelson (1995) argued that counterstories can be the catalyst for resistance and appropriate insubordination that not only unravels the dominant story but begins to introduce change. By examining experience on the edges of community through poetic expression within a narrative inquiry, I sought and continue to seek to achieve what Butler-Kisber (2005) suggested was possible – the recognition of unconscious connections and threads emerging from the edges of community that help us to understand ourselves better and to become better teachers and researchers.
For years, I have been interested in the experiences of people living on the edges of community. My interest stemmed primarily from my own experiences living on the edge of the muskeg, which turned out not to be the edge of the muskeg at all but rather the heart of the muskeg and, oddly enough, the heart of my own identity-making. What, I wondered, do others make of this experience of living on the edges of community? How do they story themselves in relation to how they position or are positioned in the world? In my research, both literally and figuratively, I dwell in the margins of my participants’ lives. I listen from the edges. I watch from the edges. I write from the edges. Even in my reflections on our interactions, our conversations, I hover in the margins of their lives.
I read the transcripts of our conversations and I quite literally write my notes in the margins of those transcripts. In his poem Marginalia, Billy Collins (1998) wrote:
We have all seized the white perimeter as our own and reached for a pen if only to show we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages; we pressed a thought into the wayside, planted an impression along the verge. (pp. 14–16) As I began to plant my own impressions along the verge of these participants’ stories, of their lives, I was struck by an urge to remove myself entirely, give my readers only the participants’ stories in their words devoid of my impressions and interpretations. Yet, even the selection of stories to include in a narrative inquiry represents a seizing of the white perimeter, as Collins puts it. I leave my impression on the work simply by doing it. I cannot pretend that I have not for months been scribbling away in the margins of my participants’ lives. Clandinin and Connelly (2000) said narrative inquirers live alongside their participants in order to understand not only the stories told but also what is not said and not done. The narratives I record and interpret through poetry, my thoughts, my interpretations and analysis, are most appropriately thought of as the marginalia to the participants’ larger stories that can only ever be told partially here.
Shifting the Frame: Poetry as Research
CALL IT SOMETHING DIFFERENT The night before you left I came over. You packed, then we lay on the couch with the TV on, just slept, in those last hours before you left not bothered in any way that would keep us awake and that’s how I tell the difference between friendship and love – when I don’t feel like I have to do anything on the nights before you leave and I’m not bothered in any way. That’s family, even if you call it something different. That is the difference. With you it’s calm. It isn’t love.
As I’ve mentioned, my contributions to this book grew out of my previous research in which I explored poetic expression as a means of understanding my own positioning within a narrative research examining the identity-making and curriculum making of participants positioned as marginalized. Through that inquiry, I grew into an understanding of the necessity of fully engaging my skills as a poet to examine and articulate my sense-making of the stories of my participants. This chapter has taken up the question of poetic expression as both a methodology and a theoretical framework and argues that poetic expression, fully engaged, has the potential to be a strong, rigorous methodology and theoretical framework for the analysis of qualitative data. In this chapter, I have defined poetic expression as the full engagement of poetic tools and sensibilities within research and I discussed how poetic expression can be utilized to analyse participants’ narratives to create more nuanced and complex representations of their experiences.
My theoretical framework in engaging poetic expression of research is grounded in narrative inquiry. At the same time, I use the poetic expression of research as a tool for deeper understanding in my own sense-making. In previous writing (Clarke, 2014, 2016a; Clarke & Murphy, 2015), I discussed narrative inquiry as both a methodology and a theoretical perspective. Likewise, in this chapter, I present poetic expression as a methodology engaging the combined theoretical perspectives of narrative inquiry and poetic inquiry. From a narrative inquiry perspective, I am interested in understanding participants’ stories as fundamental units of human experience (Pinnegar & Daynes, 2007). In particular, I am interested in how the narrative commonplaces (Connelly & Clandinin, 2006) of sociality, temporality, and place are expressed in the stories of my participants. From a poetic inquiry perspective, I am interested in the ways metaphor shapes the stories of participants as well as the ways it shapes my own understanding of their experiences. In this chapter, I have demonstrated how the metaphorical nature of the way we live out experience makes poetic expression of research especially effective as a tool to gain insight into participants’ experiences. Through a detailed account of my methodological process of analysing participants’ research conversations through poetic expression, I have illustrated the ways in which poetic expression engages my analytic thought processes in ways that create more nuanced and, I argue, deeper understanding of participants’ experiences. Additionally, I highlighted how engagement of poetic expression of research, through the necessity for member-checking of poems intended as research texts, provides multiple opportunities for interpretation of field texts, interim research texts and research texts.
As mentioned earlier, poetic expression of research functions both as a theoretical perspective and as a methodology. In my own sense-making, I draw on the work of Butler-Kisber (2005, 2010), Leggo (2010), and Richardson (2000, 2003) to establish both a theoretical and methodological foundation for creating poetic expressions of research. Their explorations of the use of poetry in research have informed my own understanding of poetry in research as well as my theoretical turn towards poetry as research. My methods have grown out of a narrative inquiry tradition in which the researcher comes alongside participants in a relational co-composition of research texts. To this end, I create poetic expressions of participants’ shared experiences that I then share with each respective participant to ensure those poetic expressions of their experiences reflect their own understanding of the experiences. This member-checking requires a negotiation between myself as the researcher and the participant to create a poem and a subsequent unpacking of the poem through commentary and analysis that thoroughly reflects our shared understanding of the research text created. By vigorously examining the ways in which I engage the poetic expression of research by incorporating poetry into my research texts, I begin to move a sense of the utility of poetry from a mere representation of experience to a recognition of poetry as experience. It is this shift in perception towards viewing poetry as experience that initiated a process of growth for me as a researcher in which I began to see the poetry I created in conjunction with research not only as interim research texts but also as research texts. In other words, my engagement with the process of creating poetry in the context of educational research shifted my perspective of poetry as a representation of research to poetry as research. The poetry itself, first conceived as representations of experience, became experience – became a critical aspect of the analytic process itself.
Speaking the Silence: An Invitation
First thoughts laid in a feathered array
against the velvet of a forest floor.
Besnard in summer. Bush
so thick sunlight barely touches
the floor where rocks are swallowed
by the mossy embrace of damp underbrush.
Thought barely penetrates the quiet
inhabited only by the instinctual exchange
of predator and prey who create language
with chirps and clicks
above the cool water of a rain-fed pond
overflowing with the brown tea of a muskeg spring.
To slip beneath its surface, voluntarily
feel the chill rise along the skin,
our hair floating toward the surface
as we sink deeper and deeper.
If only we didn’t have to breathe,
then we might stay submerged long enough
to understand the rippled surface.
Primeval instinct thrusts us up again
into the half light,
into the rasping air.
(Clarke, 2018b, p. 39)
(Clarke, 2018b, p. 39)
The close examination of the poetic process engaged in while analysing research data demonstrates a shift in my own perspective from understanding poetry as a tool of research to understanding poetry as research itself. I have come to understand some of the ways in which researchers themselves are integral to the research in our search for strong representations of our participants’ experiences. While I have chosen, in this chapter, to focus on one aspect of my research methodology, it is clear that my research methodology, particularly as it relates to the engagement of the poetic expression of research, is ever-evolving. Nevertheless, some conclusions about my role as a researcher and my positioning within research can be drawn from this examination of my methodology. Primarily, this exploration of the poetic expression of research serves to remind me of the ways in which researchers become part of the research despite our best efforts to extricate ourselves from the research analysis. In the examination of my own methodology, I bring myself into relationship with myself in a metacognitive exploration of the researcher’s relationship to the research. Ethically, I hold to the notion of the narrative cycle of inquiry in which the researcher engages in living, telling, retelling, and reliving research with a consistent focus on experience as central to our understanding (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). Key to this cycle is the notion that the researcher is responsible for engaging with participants through relationship, remaining in relationship with participants throughout the inquiry. I extend that ethical responsibility to myself, insisting on the importance of remaining ethically responsible to myself as both a researcher and a poet.
By inquiring into my own methods of understanding participants’ experiences through poetry, I have come to understand the importance of sustaining the integrity of that representation. My engagement of poetic expression has challenged me to articulate the importance of fully engaging the poetic sensibilities when using poetry in research. From this perspective, I have come to understand the unique nature of poetry to express that which does not find easy expression. In reference to the poem Before 4 (Clarke, 2018a), created for previous research, I wrote “we read the silence and fill in the gap in detail with our own experience” (Clarke, 2016a, p. 20). As this chapter demonstrates, we cannot engage poetically without engaging our experience. Engaging poetic expression as research helps the participant, the researcher, and the reader – as co-inquirers – to fill in the gaps with our own experiences. Poetic expression demands that we bring our experience to play in the creation of research texts.
there were Sunday suppers
spaghetti with meat sauce
brown bag lunches with smiling faces
soft green dresses
patent leather shoes –
white gloves for church
white socks for school.
there were Halloween pillowcases filled with candy
spruce trees heavy with tinsel
hand-kneaded doughnuts, wood stoves, tea.
Every bed made itself
every mitten found its mate
every afternoon started its own fire
to chase the chill away before supper.
I still look for smoke
rising from the chimney
a familiar face alive
in the kitchen window
as the bus pulls away
down the lane.
(Clarke, 2018a, p. 4)
(Clarke, 2018a, p. 4)
Through poetic expression of research, thoroughly member-checked by participants, the researcher’s position within the research is surfaced and made evident. Rather than disguising the researcher’s voice, poetic expression of research invites voice – both the researcher’s and the participant’s. Furthermore, it invites participation from the readers to engage poetically with the research and become a subsequent co-participant/researcher as they make sense, themselves, of the poetic expressions of research.
In Chapter 5, Hutchinson explores the ways narrative inquiry allows researchers to think with participants stories – examining especially the ways in which participants’ stories work on researchers (Morris, 2001) to provoke thinking and reflection as we make meaning of participant experience, ourselves, and the worlds in which we live.
The first person voice in this chapter refers to Clarke and is meant to provide a personal connection to the reflections shared.
Butler-Kisber (2010) referenced the work of Richardson (2000) and Finley (2003), among others, to suggest that poetic inquirers are aware of the need to attend to the quality of poetry within research. Butler-Kisber referred to the “architectural dimensions of a poem” (p. 97), which include concreteness, emotion, ambiguity, and associative logic (pp. 97–98). The process I use to test the quality of the poems created as expressions of research include reviewing the poems for qualities similar to those Butler-Kisber described.
Clandinin (2013) defined field texts as “our term for data […] including, for example, field notes, transcripts of conversations, and artifacts, such as photographs and writings by participants and researchers” (p. 46). Clandinin and Connelly (2000) wrote about interim research texts as “texts situated in the spaces between field texts and final published research texts” (p. 133). Clandinin explained interim research texts as a way for researchers to “continue to engage in relational ways with participants” (p. 47) as they begin the task of analysis of the field texts. Ideally, interim research texts are negotiated and even co-composed with the research participants as the researcher and participants determine together how best to create a research text that is both authentic and compelling. Interim research texts, therefore, can often be partial texts that move the ongoing interpretation from field texts to the final research text. Clandinin defined research texts as “traditional academic publications, dissertations, theses, and presentations for academic as well as for non-academic audiences” (p. 50).
The full text of the poem Before is provided at the end of this chapter.
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- Section I
- Chapter 1 Multiple Perspectives of the Muskeg: The Critical Role of Landscape in Shaping Teacher Knowledge
- Chapter 2 Attending to the Unfolding-ness: Exploring the Complexities of Curriculum Making in Teacher Education
- Chapter 3 Coming Alongside during the Dissertation Process: Living, Telling, Reliving, Retelling a Story of Being and Becoming a Narrative Inquirer
- Section II
- Chapter 4 Writing the Borderlands: Poetic Expression and Narrative Inquiry as Methodology Inhabiting the Space between Narrative Inquiry and Poetic Expression
- Chapter 5 Making Meaning of Meaning-Making: Understanding Experience through Story
- Section III
- Chapter 6 Beyond the Edges: Crossing the Boundaries of Identity within Autobiographical Beginnings
- Chapter 7 Lived Identity: Interrupting Identity Categories through Stories of Curriculum Making
- Chapter 8 Speaking from the Borderlands: Reframing the Edges of Community
- Chapter 9 Representing Lives: Narrative as Language for Experience
- Section IV
- Chapter 10 Meeting in the Borderlands: Vulnerability and Sustaining Relational Research
- Chapter 11 What Comes Next: Forward-looking Stories of Research-as-experience