Birth as poetry in research

Using poetry in research and professional life as an academic in health care practice could be construed as professional suicide. Yet it is a medium that keeps me sane and allows something more deeply felt to filter through. I am in the process of writing an academic journal article about poetry use in research and thought I would air some of my early musings.

When I completed my PhD thesis the final chapter evolved around a final poem that emerged from participants words (see below). It was risky –  however it paid off. That same poem on request from faculty management is now enlarged and lives proudly framed in front of the midwifery school in the faculty buildings. When presenting poems in conferences the audience is often left in a quiet place where I have to confirm to the chair and audience – “I’m finished” so the session can end. Unspoken experiential processes play in that moment.

But why poetry? Empirically reported evidence using prose alone is important and certainly has a place in our midwifery and natal world. Yet there is always more.

So much remains ‘unsayable’. Something resides within the scent of a flower, the touch of a loved one, the warmth of a new born, the smile of a new father, the melody of a cherished song, the rhythm and expression of a favorite poem. They all promise riches known yet just beyond our linguistic grasp. Poetry may confront us, confound us, even annoy us! – however it is in the poetry that language opens space for meaning to surface and stir us up.

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Poetry for me is a moving, unfixed play of felt meanings that dance between concealing and unconcealing glimpses of unsayable ineffability. These glimpses gift us precious moments – moments when we exclaim, quietly to ourselves, or shout out in joy; “AHA – I see, I feel, I know, wow…yes now I see”. They can carry and hold us unexpectedly into a phenomenological nod when we see beyond the dichotomy of profane and sacred to something interconnected in a kind of co-poiesis – a conjoining of life into its natural state where there is no such distinctions.

Remember when you felt tears flow at birth unexpectedly, when you tingled all over and simply in that moment loved the world; feeling blessed, privileged and awed? Precious and treasured moments that are imminent and transcendental.

Pure prose as given in most academic papers fail to take into our reading experience childbirth’s mysterious embodied meanings. Poetry as a research device provides possibility for unlocking potential for more to be revealed that previously no-one would or could say.

I leave this blog today with the poem resting on the wall in front of the midwifery offices in my faculty at AUT University Auckland New Zealand. A little advice about reading poetry. Poetry should never be read fast, take your time, don’t seek meaning, meaning will find you. This offering belongs to everyone wherever they are and whatever their roles in life…

Birth is something out of this world
drawing forth deep knowing
showing all is how it should be

An extraordinary moment
in normal life

Undefinable specialness
of timeless joy
that deeply touches
bringing us to ourselves
reminding and connecting
to what matters most

A moment of beginnings and endings…
Being-with those that came before
those that are to come
when all attune as one and gather
in creation
in wonderous holy presence

A call to us to surrender
feeling overwhelming gratitude
we are stirred beyond words
right there in that moment

3 thoughts on “Birth as poetry in research

  1. When presenting “facts” (as you consider them to be since you have done your scientific homework) your audience will in any case have feelings about the facts. Feelings fit in, no matter the context, but for a long (industrial) time feelings have been considered unworthy of a serious mention.
    Using poetry shows that you recognize feelings and their value – and it helps you add those aspects that you name ‘unsayable’ above. Thumbs up for daring! Playing safe is always easier, but, as my fiancee said the other day, the world needs more brave people who can tell openly that they see room for changes. Thanks for being one of those brave people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your words. It is always rather strange that speaking about the indeterminate aspects of who we all are is relegated to less important. Yet as you say even ‘facts’ hold different meanings for different people at different times. Feelings change and evolve.
      Cheers susan


  2. I agree. Hardly anything better than poetry to catch existing undertones, auras and ths still mythical experience of giving birth. Though machinery and meds may seem to speak a total different language …

    Many greetings from Germany,

    Liked by 1 person

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