Metropoems: Poetic Method and Ethnographic Experience

Garance Marechal, Stephen Linstead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Discussions of the use and significance of poetry as a research tool have raised the question of poetic technique and craftsmanship in ethnographic poetic outputs. In this article, the authors look explicitly at a contemporary poetic form, the "metropoem" originated by French Oulipian poet Jacques Jouet,(1) arguing that it presents a potentially valuable new tool for qualitative research for four reasons. First, the "metropoetic" form enables the taking of a position that neither turns inward toward the ethnographer's self nor outward toward an empathic relation with the ethnographic other, but is focused in the moment, in place, and in motion-which resists the temptations of nostalgia and Romanticism that have attracted criticism of "research poetry." Second, it imposes a discipline that is derived from a specific activity, which embodies the rhythms, time, and space of that activity, distinguishing metropoems from poetry that recollects or represents. Third, it demands attention to technique, to poetry as a craft, which underscores calls made by recent critical work in this area. Finally, despite being practically, empirically, and metaphorically enformed by the mobility of contemporary urban social experience, it offers a method that can usefully be adapted to encapsulate other forms of social life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-77
Number of pages12
JournalQualitative inquiry
Issue number1
Early online date3 Nov 2009
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


  • research poetry
  • poststructuralism
  • ethnography
  • poetic form
  • creative constraints

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