“Preface to Poetry in Pedagogy: Intersections Across and Between the Disciplines” by Dean A. F. Gui & Jason S. Polley

Figure 1: “Intersections”

The image opening this book about “intersections” is an eponymous poem in the shape of a frangipani flower. “Intersections” is one editor’s humble (and humbling) attempt at navigating an online text manipulation generator, which required manually trackpad-drawing the desired mosaic. The poetic montage textually and visually showcases the cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary praxes of poetry, pedagogy, and scholarship featured in this border-defying essay collection called Poetry in Pedagogy: Intersections Across and Between the Disciplines.

Please grant us the opportunity to illustrate cross- and interdisciplinary praxes by way of a fragmented three-pronged keyword-modelled reading of the representative poem “Intersections.”

Poetry

“Intersections” is a collaborative, interactive-machine generated, concrete-found poem. The poem proves collaborative because its textual content—its words—are contributed by the 10 authors collected in the volume Poetry in Pedagogy. This interactive-machine generation involved the following steps:

“Intersections,” in fact, is a concrete-found poem, owing to the visual frangipani shape of the piece, the frangipani being always already a visual manifestation of intersections. The initial text of “Intersections” was selected from abstracts belonging to earlier versions of the essays collected here. The recursive exercise of pasting, drawing, and whittling down the “Word List” was repeated seemingly ad infinitum until the “Word List” proved to be at once concise and representative. The final frangipani, after all was said and done, had to take into account each of the nine core essays in Poetry in Pedagogy.

Pedagogy

The collaborative, concrete-found poem “Intersections” exists as an example of what Monica Prendergast theorizes as “inquiry poetry” in the essay “Inquiry and Poetry: Haiku on Audience and Performance in Education” (2004). Prendergast demonstrates how her coined “inquiry haiku” can articulate the shape and significance of a topic while providing for reflections on immediate life experiences. The experiences she highlights integrate those of audience members, performers, and educators. We invite the reader to peruse the “Intersections” poem once more, before considering the following classroom activity and assessment prompts (addressed in no particular order) illustrating the intersecting of poetry (specifically, “Intersections”) in pedagogy across a number of Disciplines:

This intersecting across and between the disciplines engages learners while cultivating student-teacher communities of inquiry, ones that willingly problematize more traditional discipline-specific methodologies.

Scholarship

“Intersections” functions as a compressed example of the kinds of cross-disciplinary research the authors collected in Poetry in Pedagogy innovatively undertake, re-envision, and work to publish. As editors involved in this border-defying process, ironic in itself given that breaking borders (defying) first involves recognizing (reifying) their existence, we and our contributors have continued to experience the back-and-forth of critical pedagogical inquiry. We are therefore already involved in the revisionary scholarly practices that this collection aims to impel. We ask you, the reader, to critically examine this book in terms of its potential practicality in your evolving scholarly field. We ask you to collegially (re)consider the merits of teaching poetry, whatever your field or expertise. We also wish to engage you in wider deliberations about poetry’s (potential) place in Teaching & Learning (T&L).

Again evoking Prendergast, we can engage with “Intersections” by way of an adapted version of “ekphrastic inquiry.” In her article “Found Poetry as Literature Review: Research Poems on Audience and Performance” (2006), the “aesthetic and intellectual choice,” she explains in first person, “is drawn from my belief that the transitory, ephemeral, and affective nature of performance requires a similar form of writing.” This professed “similar form of writing” is manifest as “research poetry,” which is similar in approach to the traditional literature review. After all, the process includes sifting through significant material in search of relevant snippets, chunks of evidence, and indicative data. There are exceptions, however.

As tertiary instructors, our occupation necessarily includes reflecting on our research as well as on our associated pedagogy. Several of the authors included in this book are English literature instructors who regularly write and publish poetry. Others included herein turn toward digital spaces and website development at once as researchers and as practitioners. This collection also includes instructors and researchers from the not-so-far-flung (it turns out) fields of Science, History, and Culture. Some contributors travel to glacial regions; others to tropical islands and villages over oceans and seas; others immerse themselves in their local countryside over hills and dales; while still others commune with the people of their (new) places, which includes pub and pub-patron life. All of these diverse and pedagogically fruitful experiences, and the assorted ways of contextualizing and reporting on     these T&L praxes, offer unique ways in which to formally and informally integrate poetry into the academy.     

The essays compiled in Poetry in Pedagogy, nevertheless, consider, combine, and complement “poetry topics” not only from within, but also from beyond, existing T&L paradigms. This book assiduously presents and reflects on scholarly undertakings from and about regions including Asia (Hong Kong and Singapore), the Atlantic (The United Kingdom, The British Isles, New York City), the Caribbean, the West Coast (California, Southwest Alberta), as well as Virtual Space. We have authors from different disciplines at the same university who habitually communicate. We have authors from similar disciplines at different universities who communicate sporadically. We have a collaborative chapter from STEM scholars working at the same institution. We have authors whose relationship with former students extends beyond the classroom and across the years. We have contributors who really live to embody the poetry, pedagogy, and scholarship that they impart via regular visits home to reconnect with their local roots. Some of our contributors have improved the range and depth of their fields through innovative concepts and frameworks and green living practices. We like to refer to the latitudes encompassed in Poetry in Pedagogy as “multiformalisms.” The manifold cross-disciplinary intersections of poetry, pedagogy, and scholarship championed by this book will, we trust, inform interdisciplinary educators and practitioners of creative writing and poetry, as well as seasoned and more junior scholars, from various backgrounds, interested in working beyond conventional disciplinary interpellation. Our readers, we like to Derrideanly think, will engage with multiformalisms beyond dualities, binaries, and dichotomies.  

This project is the culmination of a (mostly email, but not only) correspondence beginning in 2013 between two colleagues. One has an academic background in poetry. He is an English language teacher. The other’s academic training is in contemporary literatures in Englishes. He’s an undergraduate instructor and postgraduate supervisor in an English Language & Literature department. We personally hail from polar points on the globe. We professionally hail from different universities in Hong Kong. Our professional correspondence eventually evolved into professional mentoring: doctoral student and chief supervisor. The extended process of reining-in this volume began with our combined aspiration to bring together educators from around the world in a bid to discuss poetry in the university classroom. We wanted to seriously address poetry—and not just use it as a top-down-directed (almost) all-purpose institutional buzzword. 

This volume arrives at an ideal time in the overhauling of contemporary education—a time when we must be evermore reminded of the limitless possibilities that poetry can provide for educators and for students. This book carves out cutting edge creative pedagogical practices. These include increased emphases on the digital universes that evermore encourage far-flung intersections and associations. Perhaps this collection can serve as a launch-pad for further treatments of the commonalities of, in lieu of the divides between, academic disciplines. We hope this book offers a positive correction to the persistent paradox of cross- or interdisciplinary studies: the building of walls only to climb over them. Here, some of the (artificial) boundaries between disciplines are coaxed into disappearing. And it is poetry in pedagogy, as assortment of “multiformalist intersections,” that allows for disciplinary rapprochement.

Hong Kong, Hong Kong             

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Jason S Polley is an Associate Professor at the Department of English Language and Literature. [Click here to read all entries by JSP.]

Dean A. F. Gui is a PhD candidate at the Department of English Language and Literature.

                                          

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