Can Poetry Be Data? Potential Relationships Between Poetry and Research

Commentary by Johanna Shapiro. PhD

The article by Rich Furman (2004) uses personal poetry written a decade ago, as well as current reflections on these poems, to explore the author’s reactions at various points in time to his father’s diagnosis of lung cancer. Furman created his poems in the time-honored tradition of writing as personal therapy (Anderson & MacCurdy, 2000). Confronted with emotional chaos and loss of control, he wrote to restore a sense of order and balance in a fragmented life. However, 10 years later, the author regards these poems differently, with the eye of perspective not as therapy but as raw material for investigation. He has become the archeologist of his own past. The poetry he wrote then, likely with no thought of scholarly study, is transformed into the stuff of research.

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