Research Poetry (communicating research results and expressing their significance through poetry)

In spring of 2000, I assigned a student in my technical writing class to use her knowledge of poetry-writing to make a “Top 10 Tips” web page. I still regularly teach from that page, and over the years have updated and maintained it.

I was pleased the other day to learn this work is cited several times in an article on research poetry — that is, poems created by academics who work with all kinds of data, but who turn to poetic rather than scholarly language in order develop and share insights that might otherwise go unexamined.

This particular article uses “Poetry Writing: Top 10 Tips” to explore what makes research poetry “good enough” to function as poetry, when the authors are not themselves trained poets. (I am also thinking of Science Magazine’s “Dance your Ph.D.” contest.)

The creation of poetry with impact is a foundational area for would-be research poets to consider. One aspect of transitioning to an impactful poet includes considering what the goal of poetry is. Poetry is not only writing about our own experiences but also trying to write primarily for the reader, so the reader can experience new feelings and understandings or re-experience them in a novel way. Here, we would like to point out research poets have an advantage because the science part of our goals are always about others even when we are motivated by deeply personal experiences. Qualitative researchers and research poets alike are trying to understand and represent the world for the reader. This has been called a move

away from writing poetry to celebrate, commemorate, or capture your own feelings (in which case you, the poet, are the center of the poem’s universe) towards writing poetry in order to generate feelings in your reader (in which case the poem exists entirely to serve the reader. (Ziehl & Jerz, 2013)

Lahman, Maria K.E., Veronica M. Richard, and Eric D. Teman, “ish: How to Write Poemish (Research) Poetry.” Qualitative Inquiry, 2018, pp. 1-13. Sage Journals doi: 10.1177/1077800417750182