In this article, the movement between the gravity and synchrony of love in pandemic times as revealed through the creative practices of poetry and cellphone photography is addressed. Informed by literature on slow scholarship published prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the author explores the ways in which listening to and caring for the small sounds of a familiar place–here a rural backyard–can act as a generative theoretical space to reconsider the meaning of love and its implications for academic work. The principal questions include: how can the practice of writing poems and taking photographs foster the intentionality of slow time? How can immersing oneself in this time provide insight into perhaps worn-out conceptualizations of what is considered precious? What implications, if any, can these insights have for understandings of love and the need for slow scholarship post-pandemic?
Taking up the writings of Louise Glück and Mahmoud Darwish, this essay (re)searches the place and potential of a transnational, Edenic imagination as a vision of belonging amidst the alienation of modern life. Where a transnational poetics rejects ossified borders and boundaries, seeking porosity and imaginative possibilities that work across, around, through, and in-between, an Edenic imagination embraces a consciousness that simultaneously holds holy memory alongside longing for transcendence; so too do these ways of reading and seeing refract in the art-making I attempt as I seek the invisible web of connective, human tissue present in the poetic renderings of Eden by Glück and Darwish. As forces of modernity, colonization, and globalization maim and sever, a transnational, Edenic imagination gives language and location to our thirst for sacred inhabitance. As a method of inquiry, such a reading invites both researcher and reader to dwell in the liminal space of poetics.
Guided by the poetic explorations of Eden and exile by Glück and Darwish, I work to consider how poetry itself becomes a hybrid site of belonging. The hope is that, through a deep (re)reading of the verses in which Glück and Darwish employ Eden as a metaphor, poetic inquiry might provide a way for us to more fully traverse categories of life, death, time, longing, space, and culture, exploring the complex matrices of our human experience and pursuit of home.
I was born in South Africa, as were my parents and grandparents. We have descended from people who had been brought to South Africa through indenture, a colonial labour system that introduced alien agricultural methods and an alien workforce from India, to optimise monocultures like sugarcane. My very presence here is, therefore, entangled with colonialism’s domestication and mastery over land, plant, and people (Indigenous and indentured). I have never felt alien here. Why was that? What about the indenture stories of people, land and plant, beyond empire’s mastery and control—my ancestral wild places? And was there room within these wild places to heal colonial wounds across our ethnic and racial barriers? What was lost? Could my PhD2 research transcripts address some of those losses? This paper contains poems that emerged from PhD research interviews, my fieldnotes, my father's memoirs, and letters from my ancestral archives. A poetic lens gave me a decolonial language to inspect the archives and transcripts with some of these questions in mind.
“(In)habitings” explores how the death of my father in a Japanese prison in 1945 during World War II and the recent death of my mother entangle in ways that challenge a binary conception of presence and absence as physical proximity or locatedness based on temporal/spatial constructs. The intention of this poetic inquiry is to compose (in)habitings: performative texts of poiesis, in which the data—material (memorabilia, photographs, objects, letters), embodied (sensorium, affects, (re)memberings, animate and inanimate) and multi-contextual (across temporal, spatial, subjective, and social)—are gathered to reorient time, space, and proximities to trace the intensities, contours, and resonances of presence and absence as they modulate to affect love and longing. Conceiving poetic inquiry as a space for exploring, perceiving, and imagining, I present the poetic (art-making rendered in lyrical-figural languages) and simultaneously the inquiry (the research-method) through poems, lyrical narratives, and metaphoric, speculative reveries that converge to explore the poetic, ephemeral, and shimmering data of life/lived worlds where longing—a kind of ache in both method and subject—resides in the spaces of in-between-ness.
Our ways of seeing, of being, of knowing in the world are shaped by relationship. These relationships reflect the complex dynamic that exists as we navigate between the living layers of human nature, desire, loss, connection and disconnection, certainty and uncertainty. Across the space of this piece, I seek to breathe, to move with observant awareness through emotion and cognition. I want to acknowledge the deep sense of absence that reverberates across my consciousness, an absence that is both spiritual and etymological. This absence reflects the complexity of my subjectivity as a mother, an educator, one who navigates within the narrative of colonization, and a synchronicity of spirit that transcends self. It is through the breath that I find myself in rhythm, connected to the land—spirit, (be)longing with/in (un)certainty. Poetry, prose, and photographs intermingle upon the pages, offering an assemblage of being, of (un)knowing, of breathing amidst (im)permanence. This work creates space for me to better know myself as scholar, teacher, mother—as one who lives upon a stolen, sacred landscape, while creating openings for dialogue, disruption, and praxis.
It’s been a tough couple of years. Each one among us could list off the news headlines as a lengthy and overwhelming reminder. And each one among us could certainly curate a personalized list that amplifies and extends our collective sufferings. The past couple of years have left me wondering, “what could possibly be next?” I heed David Geoffrey Smith’s (2014) call to “reimagine new, wiser human possibilities” for our overlapping worlds of suffering. As an educator, mother, world-lover deeply concerned with all forms of justice, I share grief-writing: poetic stories of small-town sufferings through floods, stories of family hurts, heartaches and loss, stories of love enduring through hopelessness. I engage life writing and poetic inquiry to undertake a dialogue with my own heart-memories, my loved ones, my scholarly ancestors— towards hopeful pedagogical possibilities for healing.
This writing explores what continues to arise after my cancer diagnosis. A cancer diagnosis enlivens the question of what it means to live well with the Earth and its multi-dimensional beings and provides a necessary push to step out from the confines of a self and toward and into the wild fray of this life. I interpret my lived experiences through life writing. Readers and listeners might be drawn into recognition of their inescapable ecological interdependence. The necessity of cultivating an ability to listen and interpret the world and the human and other-than-human kinships becomes undeniable as I engage in life-writing and photography. Listening to words that arise in my writing and reviewing the photos I take continues to be my way of taking a journey toward learning to be open to the fullness of life, how life is lived, how life can be remembered and suffered and let go. Through this study, I am learning the necessary steps to unforget what I need and what the Earth might need of me. Cancer offers an opening for the practice of life-writing and of making sense of being in the world and of understanding the offerings that arrive when I nurture a commitment to care for the world and myself.
The question of an existential experience of hurt is not only relevant during present times of enduring hurt through realities such as a deadly pandemic, racialized violence, precarious educational realities, and ongoing struggles for justice in its many forms. The work of this poetic inquiry is enduringly relevant insofar as both institutions and people hold, create, sustain, and attempt to respond to hurt of many kinds. At times, we may cause more hurt than we soothe. As I write, I am grounded in the practices of poetic and literary analysis and position this piece a space and a form to hold the seemingly incommensurable questions for us as teachers, as artists, and as humans existing and living through a world of hurt. As a philosopher of education, I am perpetually concerned with the possibilities of a humanizing education that may soothe and eradicate existential hurt. I look toward poetry and art to show us the way.
In response to this call for poetic inquiries that speak the dynamism of an animate pluriverse, that honor what we hold sacred, and that might serve as medicine during these cataclysmic times, these poems-as-research offer a meditation on the power of love in myriad forms, to teach, inspire and sustain us. Weaving mythopoetic thought and imagery amongst everyday events and mundane realities, love surfaces as core currency. Evoking the wonder of children, and the love and care of teachers, mentors, and friends, these poems sing love in the world, and love of the world—the animated natural world, and the written wor(d)ld as expressive animation of what we love. Specifically, this poetic inquiry traces three synchronous veins of love in my life as they weave through my writing-as-research: love for my daughters (and the intractable wonder of childhood); love for a beloved teacher and mentor, American poet Robert Bly; and love as secular-spiritual awakening, the beating heart of social justice and personal/political activism. Tracings of love in our lives, etched and echoed through poetry as inquiry.
In this article, art is used as inquiry to ask powerful questions, untangle paradoxes, and help us navigate loss and grief in the Anthropocene. Several central questions are considered and animated through narrative and poetry. How do we live poetically (Leggo, 2005) in a world that we need to exploit in order to survive? How do we engage in a more-than-human world full of ambiguity and paradox? How might nature become a teacher or mentor (Jickling et al., 2018), and what anthropocentric barriers do we face? How can stories and poems facilitate holistic expression and place-based connection? As we elucidate the wonder and loss of cottonwood, and the mentorship of ponderosa, Carl Leggo (2004, 2005, 2012, 2016, 2019a, 2019b) serves as a guide for artful attending and hopeful imagination for living poetically. Joanna Macy’s (Macy & Johnstone, 2012; Macy & Brown, 2014) work that reconnects and Leggo’s curriculum of joy offer parallel paths of grief and hope so that we might find our way through the Anthropocene.
Directed toward the novice, Helen Owton’s (2017) book, Doing Poetic Inquiry, introduces the reader to poetry as an approach to research that allows one to enter into a phenomenological space of relational experience and understanding. Striving toward accessibility, she captures the tensions that exists within qualitative research by offering a guide that is both personal and methodologically orientated. Across the space of this review, I blend found poetry with prose as a means of entering into dialogue with this work. This dialogue lives in a messy space of intention and understanding where knowing lives within the body—the heart, the personal and political. Owton’s work is a compassionate gesture that offers concrete examples and suggestions inviting the reader to reconsider their own research practices and the discursive spaces in which those practices live.
This book review explores the publication of an email correspondence between Carl Leggo and Kimberley Holmes which occurred over the period of time that Leggo was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for a brain tumour that eventually ended his life. It observes his role as a super-mentor of graduate students undertaking works in poetic inquiry and life writing, and his commitment to living poetically until his unfortunate passing in 2019. The review considers some ethical issues associated with this publication and the reasons why it provides useful insights to anyone committed to academic mentorship.
This is a review of The Marrow of Longing by dancer/poet/writer/educator, Celeste Nazeli Snowber. This book, presented in fragments, is a heartrending and thought-provoking poetic and visual inquiry into Celeste’s motherline, Armenian cultural heritage, and identity. It will awaken, like it has for me, your longings and need to become aware of what has formed and informed your own life. The Marrow of Longing is both an offering/gift and an invitation.
Laura Apol’s Poetry, Poetic Inquiry and Rwanda: Engaging with the Lives of Others (2021) traces the author’s long relationship with survivors of the 1994 Rwanda holocaust in which thousands of Tutsi were murdered by their neighbors, and examines the ways in which her personal uses of poetry for coping with painful subject matter became a longitudinal poetic inquiry. This review responds to themes of relational poetic inquiry and the development of poetic craft and suggests that the author’s development reflects the development of the field of poetic inquiry and marks a stage of accomplishment.