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date: 18 October 2019

Summary and Keywords

Poetic inquiry, an increasingly popularized form of arts-based research, is an expressive and evocative method and methodology, where the lines of responsibility and roles assumed of a researcher mandate that the researcher is a social science and expressive artist. It is defined broadly as a reseach process and research product. As a process, poetic inquiry is the foundation of or central component to research endeavors where poetry can be the data source, the analytical and interpretative lenses, and/or the presentation. As a product, poetic inquiry results in poems singularly constructed by the researcher or participants or collaboratively crafted with both researcher and participants using notes, transcripts, memos, documents, texts, and so on. While all research is the interpretation of one voice through yet another voice, poetic inquiry offers the opportunity for participants to truly speak for themselves.

The emergence of poetry within arts-based research is connected not only to the overall increase in arts-based practices but also to broader epistemological and theoretical insights such as those posed by postmodern and post-structural theory. As such, feminist and other politically motivated researchers may be interested in the transformational possibilities of poetry, as poetry can be a vehicle through which the patriarchal suffocation of research can be challenged. Thus, many researchers utilizing poetic inquiry focus on race, gender, identity, social justice, etc.

As with any research, there are methodological and quality-related criticisms of poetic inquiry. However, poetic inquiry researchers acknowledge poetic inquiry is subjective, emotional, complex, connected, and sometimes messy in that it is constantly evolving, influencing, and being influenced by the social world. The quality of poetry used in and presented as poetic inquiry is more of a concern than a critique as arts-based researchers steer clear of promoting the minimized accessibility of poetic inquiry that would be the result of poetic elitism. Nevertheless, poetic inquiry researchers must consider the quality of their poetic inquiry work. They should study the craft of poetry, be aware of the traditions, understand the techniques, and engage in reflection prior to and while conducting any research project.

There are a number of considerations to be had regarding the future directions of poetic inquiry. First, poetic inquiry continues to grow and bear fruit. If researchers are to employ convincingly poetic inquiry, they cannot be bound by draconian definitions. Poetic inquiry is not a welcome all for poorly constructed poetry; however, advocating for tightly bound definitions of work that is intended to be exploratory, evocative, and expressive would debilitate the field. Next, while there are some generally accepted and expected practices, there is no mandated linear process one must employ in poetic inquiry. The continued evolution of the poetic inquiry process is expected. Finally, the impact of poetic inquiry has been increasing steadily for at least 15 years as researchers have become more interested in engaging, questioning, refining, and adopting poetic inquiry. A journal dedicated specifically to defining, exploring, and presenting poetic inquiry could further this impact.

Keywords: arts-based research, qualitative analysis, poetic inquiry, poetry, reflexivity

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