Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Collaborative Poetic Processes: Methodological Reflections on Co-Writing with Participants

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Collaborative Poetic Processes: Methodological Reflections on Co-Writing with Participants

Article excerpt

This article outlines my methodological process in engaging in a collaborative poetry-making process with two of the women who offered their stories to my research project exploring Newfoundland women's experiences of displacement (see Manning, 2016, 2017a, 2017b). I first became interested in poetic inquiry and other arts-informed methodological approaches to research during my undergraduate degree, finding they aligned well with my commitments to doing research that has relevance and impact outside the academy. In this particular research project, using a collaborative poetic inquiry process offered a way for me to involve the participants in the research beyond simply collecting their stories in interviews, as co-writers of poems based on their experiences. Having the poems present within the wider work also allowed me to provide a different "way in" to the research and its findings for the participants, as well as interested community members and policy makers, who might otherwise find the complex academic language that characterizes many research outputs inaccessible or overwhelming.

Unlike other qualitative methodologies, very little work has been published on precisely how to do research using poetic inquiry, leaving those who are new to the methodology to flounder through existing finished products to find a process that works for them in their research (Cahnmann-Taylor, 2009). I have explored poetic methodologies over the last five years in three different research projects. I have reviewed the limited literature on different methodological processes of poetic inquiry (see Butler-Kisber 2012; Glesne 1997; Lahman 2011; Petersen 2012), and arrived at a place and a process that works in the context of my own work. This is a contribution that hopefully can be of use to others as they find their way to their own poetic inquiries.

Why Use Poetic Inquiry?

Poetic inquiry belongs to a group of methodological approaches known as arts-informed methodologies. Storytelling, drawing, video, photography, and performance theatre (among others) also belong in this group. Eisner (2008) writes that arts-informed research methodologies recognize that "empathy is a means to understanding, and strong empathic feelings may provoke deep insight into what others are experiencing" (p. 6). For this reason, arts-informed methodologies are well suited for social research that aims to work for social change. Despite taking different artistic forms, Cole and Knowles (2008) propose that arts-informed research methodologies are united by a set of common defining elements. These include: using an art form that makes sense in the context of the research; valuing the imagination in the inquiry process; the researcher taking an active role in shaping the art form while ensuring reflexivity; and aiming for audience engagement as a key outcome of the research process. In short, arts-informed methodologies create research that is "accessible, evocative, embodied, empathetic, and provocative" (Cole & Knowles, 2008, p. 60). These imaginative forms allow readers or audience members a different way into the research that challenges the conventional ways of presenting social research (Jacobsen, Drake, Keohane, & Peterson, 2014).

As a feminist researcher, I have a commitment to doing research that is accessible to the people and communities I work with and has the potential to contribute to social change. As an academic and a writer, I know the power of language to effect change in the world. As a poet, I dwell in emotion and take guidance from the heart, recognizing in my work that impact "can be achieved with resonance as much as with report" (Neilsen, 2008, p. 94). Poetic inquiry and other arts-informed methodologies extend possibilities for resonance in research and academic work beyond what is possible in academic prose. Sullivan (2012) suggests that poetic inquiry "is a complex of multiple ways of knowing, involving both conscious and subconscious processing, both attention and intuition" (p. …

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