Skip to main content

School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


The poetics of women and civic engagement

Article on using poetry in research for the Imagine newsletter (

The poetics of women and civic engagement

Poetry workshop with ‘Women for Independence (WFI) Clackmannanshire’, December, 2015

While exploring what time is to the individual in the community, how do we also recognise temporalities in relation to research methods, and what the democratisation of knowledge about communities means in practice? How can we capture the temporality of women’s lives, and what methods are available to researchers to allow them to work collaboratively with groups of women? New forms of knowledge are emerging about creative research methods: opening opportunities for voices to be heard that have previously been marginalised, and making it possible for these views to be expressed.

One method chosen for this research project is the use of poetry. Poetry surrounds itself with time – in its repetitive, rhyming, pausing, stopping, pondering nature, and in the temporalities held within the creating process of writing poetry. In a framework of private public dichotomies, where women’s civic engagement and temporal experiences could be suggested to still circulate around the private – even when concerned with the public, poetry might allow those personal experiences, spoken by women themselves, to reveal the purposeful, public nature of their work, while also reflecting the overlapping multiplicities of time connected to the home. As a complementary method, to perhaps interviews and ethnographic study, poetry seeks to reveal the diversity of people, emphasising the complexities of lived experiences,  allowing voices to be heard, and “captur[ing] the essence of the how, the why, the what

(Carroll,et al, 2011. p.624)     

                “ Poetry, I think, is an interruption of silence"

                     Billy Collins, former US poet laureate