Chapter 26. Moving Poetic Inquiry Beyond the Academy: How Two Poets Popularize Their Research

John Guiney Yallop and Sean Wiebe

John J. Guiney Yallop is a parent, a partner, and a poet who was awarded his PhD by the University of Western Ontario. His dissertation was a poetic inquiry where he wrote a book of poetry titled OUT of Place, and followed the book of poetry with an exegesis in which he reflected on the poetry and the experience of doing this type of research. He is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Acadia University. His current research includes poetic inquiry, narrative inquiry, autoethnography, and performative social science. He uses these methodologies to explore identities, communities, and emotional landscapes.


Sean Wiebe is an assistant professor of education at the University of Prince Edward Island, teaching courses in language and literacy, curriculum theory, and global issues.  His research explores issues in writing pedagogy, poetic inquiry, and teacher narratives. Most recently he has investigated poets’ pedagogies and alternative forms of knowing.


In this chapter, written in three parts, we present two separate journeys that detail the use of poetic inquiry in the conducting of research. We describe the processes and the products, and we offer possibilities for how others might conduct this form of inquiry. Poetic inquiry has many forms (Prendergast, 2009), but essentially it is about the using of poetry to investigate and come to deeper understandings of the topic or subject of our research (Educational Insights 13(3); Guiney Yallop, 2008; Prendergast, Leggo, & Sameshima, 2009; Wiebe, 2008).


In part one of this chapter, John writes about how he, as principal investigator, with co-investigator Kathleen Naylor and two graduate-student participants, Shamimara Sharif and Nancy Taylor, explored graduate-student identities using poetic inquiry; all four considered themselves participants in the project. They met at four locations and wrote poetry about their identities. They then performed their poetry for a public audience where they launched a chapbook that contained selected poems from the research. The poetry has also been performed in the authors’ homes and home communities


As a researcher in poetic inquiry, Sean has been researching the ways that poetry enlivens or enchants what we know. Part of his search has included participation in poetry slams hosted by the Prince Edward Island Diversity Office. In part two of this chapter, Sean discusses his participation in the poetry slams and the usefulness of this type of participation in the dissemination of his research.


We conclude this chapter with a third part in which we reflect on our work as poetic researchers, writing and performing individually and collaboratively. We offer no conclusions, but we do open up, we hope, spaces for further conversations about what might be possible when researchers turn to poetry to explore and represent what they are studying and what they are learning. As our “show” component to this piece, available below, we offer readings by three of the graduate students from John’s research and readings by Sean of two of his poems that have brought him deeper understandings of what it means to do research. The texts of the poems are also available on this website. 


Listen to the first performance


Listen to the second performance


Listen to the third performance


View Another Parable about Neighbors


View Wittgenstein on Tap