Poetry, prose and poetics

I saw this quotation in a news item today:

Politicians when they are in campaign mode… tend to campaign in poetry, in simple terms and high-level messages.

When you get into office you have to govern in prose … and face a very serious reality check.

I was fascinated by the juxtaposition of poetry and prose in this quotation. It prompted me to think about how teachers and coaches create their learning opportunities and the language they use to mobilise interest and engagement.

My work has been profoundly influenced by the approach taken by Miller Mair. Three decades ago (link), he observed that he used “a story telling approach which attends more to our ‘acts of telling’ than to particular methods by which we ‘get the facts straight’, He added “Every telling is a composition with personal intentions. Every telling is partial, suffused with personal interest”.

Miller has a clear sense of what poetry is to him “By poetry I do not mean short lines on a page that may or may not rhyme. I am referring to an approach to living that involves imaginative fluency rather than conventional solidity. I am referring to being able to hear with new ears, see with fresh eyes, and becoming able to speak with imaginative directness, telling it like it feels and is right now”.

I sense that this imaginative fluency is quite different to the short bites of a political campaign. I was also fascinated by Miller’s approach to poetics. He stressed “the importance of a poetic approach in psychology and psychotherapy, and the need to explore and understand the nature of psychology through an imaginative freedom of language”. He emphasised too that “a poetic awareness and attentiveness is fundamental to any pursuit of understanding of ourselves or others” (link).

This relationship between experience and story-sharing has been an important guide for me in my practice and my thinking about practice in teaching and coaching. Today’s alert to poetry and prose has set me off on another journey.

Photo Credit

Arthur Humeau on Unsplash

Storytelling: swimming with the tide


I found Laurel Richardson’s (1990) monograph yesterday. I was sorting through some books at home, thinking about storytelling. And there she was … Writing Strategies: Reaching Diverse Audiences.

Laurel was writing long before the appearance of weblogs and certainly a very long time before vlogging. The conclusion to her monograph connects the world she experienced and the emergence of reaching diverse audiences through the Web.

If we wish to understand the deepest and most universal of human experiences, if we wish our work to be faithful to the lived experiences of people, if we wish for a union between poetics and science, if we wish to reach a variety of readers, or if we wish to use our privileges and skills to empower the people we study, then we need to foreground, not suppress, the narrative within the human sciences.

Her final sentence is:

How and for whom we write lives matters.

I agree that how we write matters and that we have a real sense of our implied readers. For some time now, I have been blogging as my main way of communicating. It works wonderfully in a rural environment with relatively limited access to broadband connectivity.


This week two separate blogging connections added to my thinking about audiences.

The first was the announcement of the winners of the 2015 Football Blogging Awards. I liked the double awards in each category: fans’ choice and judges’ choice.

I have been thinking about developing  a short, open course on storytelling in sport. A key part of that process for me would be to use football blogs as the illustration of storytelling approaches. The awards have accelerated my interest

The list of Award winners can be found here.

The finalists are listed here.

The second, was finding Simon Duffin‘s blog about ocean pools in NSW. Simon moved to Australia from Scotland in 2014.

The great thing about living on the NSW coast is that there are over 100 tidal baths, rock pools or ocean baths, and I imagine even in the depths of an Australian winter, the water temperatures will be warmer than what we experienced off the coast at Wick in north east Scotland.

So, I couldn’t resist the challenge of swimming in all those NSW tidal baths and recording both my own experience and that of others I meet along the way.

I was delighted to read Simon’s posts. I had written about Wylie’s in Coogee, one of the beautiful ocean pools in NSW.


Simon combines his interests in ocean pool swimming with his knowledge of tea and coffee. Each pool review has a link to local cafes.

Finding both blogging alerts this week added to my thinking about visual literacy. There were lots of other blog posts too to send me off on delightful trips of the imagination.

Four years after Laurel’s monograph was published, I attended a Commonwealth and Scientific Conference in Victoria, British Columbia. My report to my line managers did not have the eloquence of Laurel’s concluding sentiments but it did include this observation:

I do feel that the ongoing inclusion of the Institute in a world system of scholarship requires a creative use of information networks. Many delegates actively use E-mail to share research and ideas. I think we must do this and recommend that E-mail and Internet use be an urgent theme for staff development.

From that time on, I was keen to be an early adopter of educational technology opportunities to share experience and to explore story sharing. I have used a variety of blogging platforms since the early 2000s. My first was a GeoCities site. I settled on WirdPress in 2008 as my main platform but have continued to explore a range of options since then.

Back in 1994 my approach was swimming against the tide of conventional practice, I am delighted that twenty years on I appear to be swimming with the tide … in the company of remarkable writers.

It is even possible to mention poetics!

Photo Credits

Keith Lyons (CC BY 4.0)

Thinking About Words

Last Wednesday staff from Sport Studies at the University of Canberra met the poet Harry Laing at the Old Cheese Factory at Reidsdale to develop our writing skills as part of the Faculty of Health‘s 2010 Writing Week. I have been thinking about the workshop a good deal since then.

On one of my journeys into the University of Canberra I caught a Book Show discussion of Paul Celan.The program note included the quote “There is nothing in the world for which a poet will give up writing, not even when he is a Jew and the language of his poems is German.” Ramona Koval discussed with Charlotte Ryland the limits and possibilities of language in relation to Celan’s poetic project.

The interview was prompted by the publication of Charlotte’s book Paul Celan’s Encounters with Surrealism: Trauma, Translation and Shared Poetic Space. The Legenda summary of the book is:

Paul Celan (1920-1970), one of the most important and challenging poets in post-war Europe, was also a prolific and highly idiosyncratic translator. His post-Holocaust writing is inextricably linked to the specific experiences that have shaped contemporary European and American identity, and at the same time has its roots in literary, philosophical and scientific traditions that range across continents and centuries – surrealism being a key example. Celan’s early works emerge from a fruitful period for surrealism, and they bear the marks of that style, not least because of the deep affinity he felt with the need to extend the boundaries of expression. In this comparative and intertextual study, Charlotte Ryland shows that this interaction continued throughout Celan’s lifetime, largely through translation of French surrealist poems, and that Celan’s great oeuvre can thus be understood fully only in the light of its interaction with surrealist texts and artworks, which finally gives rise to a wholly new poetics of translation.

I like the idea of a ‘poetics of translation’ and its resonance with developing ideas. I ought to track down the book to learn more about Paul Celan and Charlotte’s account of poetics. This may take me to Jacques Derrida too!

It is surprising where a misty day in Reidsdale can lead you.