Blackout Poetry and Pancakes

If you have not yet joined Pedagogy and Pancakes run by Chris Headland come on in, these morning sessions are fab. So, today the fabulous Aimee Merrydew was introducing Blackout Poetry as a creative teaching method to encourage students to engage more deeply with core texts they have to read.

Page coloured in black with the words: Blackout Poem. Did you see the words in your mind? emerging

And while I was listening to the webinar during my morning walk, I had two thoughts:

1) This is not just for analysing texts but actually this approach has a lot of potential for sense-making as a research analysis tool. So, one of the problems with autoethnographic text is analysing it. Being able to take that step back from one‘s Self and analyse the stories. Using blackout poetry has so much potential to take this step back, to explore what jumps out, what words, phrases, formulations appear significant. I am definitely giving this a try with some of my experimental autoethnographic writing.

2) The other element this can help with are translations. I have some serious issues translating German academic texts, unfortunately some of the current books and texts which have a significant influence on my work, my own thinking and scholarship are in German only. I think this is probably because about one quarter of the words in these books have no equivalent in English—even if I would find a kind of translation the meaning would entirely change—Wissenskritik anyone, or Bildung?—anyhow, I try to distil the meaning rather than translate the texts, but this is sometimes really difficult.

So while the presenter was speaking I had a brainwave—what if I use blackout poetry on my bilinugal semi-translations to highlight the things that are important. To me writing poetry is a lateral thinking process.

I have been writing poetry since I was a teenager, and often I do not know, or are able to express what is on my mind until I have written a poem. During years of having abusive management when I felt rotten I would just start writing on an empty blog post page, and until I would have written the poem I would not have been able to express what it was exactly that made me feel down. One of the many poems I wrote during this time is The Shadow.

Hovering over your every move
Darkness shrouded
Lying in wait
To pounce on the unsuspecting

To raise a storm tide
For a wrong word, a look, a smile
For a letter missing
For an idea incomplete
For independent thought
For a rumour taken as truth
For truth taken as lie
For a molehill perceived as an elephant

The shadow is stuck in front of the mirror
Fixated
Concealer to hide the marks
A fragile mask of normalcy

Not to be seen
Not to be known
Not to be found out

Hasty strokes applied
Over and over again
Mimikri for a world full of enemies

They must not know
They must not see
The shadow is caught in echoes of his reflection

The Shadow, @Storyfae, https://storyfae.blog/2018/09/17/the-shadow/

For me poetry is a method to give gestalt to the intangible hovering on the edges of consciousness. It enables me to express which I didn’t know needed expressing. It permits me to externalise internal white noise I can’t quite grasp. It the is a logical tool for sense making—meaning creating of any kind. So why not to analyse raw data, the poetry itself will have to be analysed as well but it is a step in the sense making process that might make the raw data more accessible and help me develop the themes and codes in the text. This is how far I have gotten with the ideas, and I downloaded a couple of research papers. But have not yet found one where blackout poetry is used for data analysis.

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