Poetry as a method and analysis in qualitative research: From I poems to pronoun poems

Year: 2021

Author: Macaulay, Luke

Type of paper: Individual Paper

In this paper I discuss the use of poetry as a method of analysis within voice-centred relational methodology (VCRM) approaches. VCRM is a useful methodological approach to better understand the relational and contrapuntal components of voice, as well as how voice is in relation with itself, with others, and with wider social and political systems and structures. In its genesis, this methodological approach was developed to better understand the voices of women in male dominated arenas of social practice. Since its inception, this methodological approach has been demonstrated as being useful when working with multiple groups whose voices may be vulnerable to marginalisation. As a method of analysis – although not limited to – VCRM lends itself well to analysing data in the form of interview transcripts (or other textual representations of participants’ voices). The four guiding prompts (otherwise known as listenings) underpinning this data analysis approach are as follows: (1) The story of who is speaking; (2) In what body; (3) Telling what story about relationships; and (4) In what societal and cultural framework. Further, these guiding prompts can be complimented through the development of I poems. These poems are developed by focusing on instances of participants’ use of the I pronoun within speech, which are placed on their own line with surrounding verbs and other important words to create stanzas. These poems are subsequently critically analysed relative to the relational position of the I.            It is my intention within this paper to demonstrate the limiting nature of I poems, and to especially problematise these poems when working with communities whose relational ontologies and epistemologies are underpinned by culturally collective world views and philosophies. Within such communities, linguistic norms regarding the use of the I pronoun may have significant differences when compared to those from cultures underpinned by individualistic norms. To address this issue, in this paper I will present my response to I poems, as well as my rationale to this response, which I refer to as pronoun poems. Drawing on examples from research I have conducted with Australian Sudanese and South Sudanese communities, I will highlight how moving beyond the I to also include a variety of relational pronouns can elicit rich poetic insights from participants providing a better understanding of their contextual relational social experiences.