According to the social scientists Tom Barone and Elliot W. Eisner, arts-based research is a “starting point for further inquiry”[1] because it does not attempt to assure the facticity of the qualitative research, but rather to explore possibilities of knowing. This approach stands in contrast to a quantitative approach where truth is exclusively logic-propositional.[2] Instead, Barone and Eisner argue that through intersubjectivity one can also find truth because:

“…it [truth] is also owned by those activities that yield meanings that are ineffable ultimately but that nonetheless ring true in the competent percipient.”[3]

A perspective that illustrates the value of science and art that attempts to reveal rather than control the ineffable can be found in Ideas and Opinions by the physicist Albert Einstein:

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.”[4]

At their greatest, both art and science unveil the mysterious through the experience of wonder (i.e. openness to the world that surrounds us) as an endless process of attempting to grasp truth, i.e. but never as an absolute. Carl Sagan illustrates the latter through his interpretation about science: “Science is an ongoing process. It never ends. There is no single ultimate truth to be achieved, after which all scientists can retire.”[5]

This ongoing process of wonder and incompleteness surrounds both qualitative and quantitative based researchers who are interested in understanding, and then portraying our reality without falling in complete relativism (e.g. solipsism as the belief only our mind exists) or certainty of knowledge (e.g. an assumption made  fact due to methodological premises).[6]

Moreover, Carl Leggo argues that a poet is a human scientist that provides fresh insights through the creativity expressed by the possibilities of language.[7] As an artist-scientist, a poet can reveal and bring to our presence what is mysterious or ineffable through an artistic approach to the social sciences. For example, Barone and Eisner argue that arts-based research   attempts to disrupt assumptions through a renewed perspective that questions the “orthodox point of view” which assumes fixed knowledge:

“Instead of contributing to the stability of prevailing assumptions about these [objective- and subjective “truth”] phenomena (either explicitly through statement, argument, portraiture, or implicitly through science or elision) reinforcing the conventional way of viewing them, the arts-based researcher may persuade readers or percipients of the work (including the artist herself) to revisit the world from a different direction.”[8]

As a result, the arts-based research   is humble in its arguments because it cannot guarantee truth as suggested within “methodological monism”[9]. To be precise, rather than assuring and claiming; I will suggest, explore, and illustrate through a poetic inquiry which is a sub-genre of arts-based research because as Barone and Eisner argue:

“…it is precisely during a period in which precision quantification, prescription, and formulaic practices are salient that we need approaches to research, and we add, to teaching, which exploit the power of “vagueness” to “get at” what otherwise seems unrecoverable.”[10]

And although arts-based research   attempts to broaden the ways one knows within social research, it does not pretend to replace other ways of knowing or create “hegemony of one method over another.”[11] Rather, epistemological diversity elucidates truth beyond logical propositions that results in different conclusions that are equally valuable while still sharing commonalities with science as Sandra Faulkner argues informed by the sociologist Patricia Leavy:

“both [the poet and social scientist] ground their work in meticulous observation of the empirical word, are often reflective about their work and experience, and possess the capacity to foreground how subjective understanding influences their work.”[12]

Furthermore, according to Leavy, in particular the craft of poetry “challenges the fact-fiction dictum” due to the “evocative presentation of data.”  In fact, poetic silence (i.e. openness as transparency) can be created through art that allows us to attend multiple meanings and even embodiment. This silence can lead to “human connection and understanding,” specifically empathy.[13]

The awareness of emotion through intersubjectivity that leads us to empathy occurs insofar one has developed the ability to pay attention to one’s embodiment. The attention to one’s embodiment results in the cultivation of empathy as a form of love. In fact, love and empathy are fundamental in times of suffering and impunity. For instance, the introductory poem might have engaged you into grasping the essence of my experience with powerlessness. I created imagery using the verb as primordial in order to dissolve subject-object boundaries that allow a revealing of the essence of what I felt. I did so because beautiful poetry allows an empathic intersubjectivity to occur between the reader experiencing the poem and the poet’s imagery. Thus the ineffable is revealed as ourselves because within oneself lies the source of all understanding through awareness, attention, cognition, and dialogue. Then, even poetry becomes an intersubjective way to find who one is, as the anthropologist Miles Richardson argues:

“We, we humans, being half gorilla and half God, are not about something; we are something, a rather strange something, in fact, a metaphysical act, a venture of and into that which awaits us. Consequently, we, being creatures who speak, long for a language that discloses our unfolding mystery, the mystery of us, of you and me. Consequently, we find ourselves in poems.”[14]

According to Richardson, informed by the poet Octavio Paz, this encounter with ourselves is being authentic but humble because poetry is enchanted with “the presence of the instant”[15]. And although poetic inquiry implies modesty, still it will challenge our ways of knowing through “metaphor, lyric, rhythm, imagery, emotion, attention, wide-awareness, opening to the world, self-revelation” [16], mindfulness, empathy, and creativity. Indeed, poetic inquiry is humble because although the poet-scientist attempts to contribute through at least a gasp of aesthetic quality, the criteria for evaluation has to resist the call for “qualifications, elitism and expertise.”[17]

For that reason, while our research will be examining a number of works that come from the discipline of philosophy, our concern with these texts is not philosophical. Rather, the research will address these texts as contributions to poetic inquiry which itself can be understood as an interdisciplinary field in between the humanities, fine arts, and social sciences; likewise we will also be drawing from physics as well to shape the notion of Being and Poetry. Furthermore, according to Leavy, poetic inquiry is said to have achieved its goal when “the academic/research community can engage in larger questions about the nature of social research, truth, and knowledge,” i.e. reach a state of dialogue, awareness, and empathy that gives voice to dismissed perspectives.[18]

For instance, Lina Ru’s book Being Poetry is an autoethnography guided by the voices of the physicist-philosopher David Bohm and the philosopher-novelist Iris Murdoch.  Bohm was ignored in the mainstream research community of his time mainly due to his political and philosophical positions. In contrast, Murdoch had to work hard for her position in a male dominated profession using a detached and analytical academic voice being herself an artist.[19]

Therefore, our research will engage with an analysis of the poetic inquiry as data through the arts and sciences that explores the possibility of experiencing life as Being Poetry. We will establish the possibility of Being Poetry, and explore the possibility of the audience of our work to Be Poetry too through the method of poetic inquiry that attempts to emphasize the notion of empathy. To understand more about poetic inquiry as an arts-based methodology in relation to empathy if you click this link.


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[1] Tom Barone and Elliot W. Eisner, Art Based Research (Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2012), 6.

[2] Barone and Eisner, 1-6. An arts-based research allows somatic ways of knowing to be explored empirically through embodiment. The notion empirical etymologically comes from “the Greek word empirikos which means experience”; see Barone and Eisner, xi. Therefore, embodiment is an empirical way of knowing because it is experiential. In regard to knowing through logic, facts can be a result of deduction, induction, and even abduction. The latter can lead to a speculative way of knowing as defined by Charles Sanders Peirce. A deduction would allow us to conclude that a third fact (C) is true based on two (A and B) true propositional facts. Induction is based on probabilities; therefore, we cannot deduce (C) because one cannot say that the initial premises (A and B) are always true, just sometimes. For instance, in the sciences the use of induction is quite relevant within quantum physics. Particularly, in the double-slit experiment there are no exact measurements but probabilities that allow scientists to elaborate the theories behind microelectronics. Furthermore, an abduction results from the observation of a single extraordinary fact (C), insofar the observation (A) is supposed to be a true fact, then (C) will be speculated to be true because one cannot induce or deduce such fact; see James Bradley, “Beyond Hermeneutics: Peirce’s Semiology as a Trinitarian Metaphysics of Communication,” Analecta Hermeneutica, no. 1 (2009): 59, accessed November 7, 2011, That said, this journal is implicitly using these propositional ways of knowing but considers that these are not the only ways of knowing. I also favor somatic, aesthetic, and indigenous ways of knowing. I critique rationality as logical propositional insofar it is considered superior to other ways of knowing; see footnote 65 for more details. Thus, I base myself on the method of arts-based research to explore truth beyond propositions while still establishing the grounds for a rational discourse; see details of a somatic and aesthetic discipline in footnote 9.

[3] Barone and Eisner, 6.

[4] Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, ed. Carl Seelig (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1995), 11.

[5] Carl Sagan, “Introduction,” introduction to Cosmos, by Carl Sagan (New York: Ballantine Books, 1985), xix.

[6] Barone and Eisner, 14-15.

[7] Carl Leggo, “Astonishing Silence: Knowing in Poetry,” in Handbook of the Arts in Qualitative Research: Perspectives, Methodologies, Examples, and Issues, ed. J. Gary Knowles and Ardra L. Cole (Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2008), 165-74.

[8] Barone and Eisner, 16. According to Barone and Eisner, there is still a dualist perspective in the sciences but the boundaries have been eroding particularly in the social sciences. The dualist assumes the objective results from the study of the body. This perspective also assumes that the subjective, the mind aspect of the dualism, does not influence the construction of scientific facts because they use of specific methodologies. As a result, quantitative research is assumed to be more “scientific” than a quantitative researcher. However after the research phase of blurred genres, one cannot assume such perspective; see Barone and Eisner, x-xi. Furthermore, an example of a discipline that does not operate in a dualistic mode of thought is somaesthetics. This discipline was introduced by the philosopher Richard Shusterman. Somaesthetics places an emphasis on the somatic or embodied experiences that are prior to any understanding of Cartesian dualism. This occurs because rather than conceptualizing the body as lifeless and static such as a stone, the body is seen as a living and constantly changing embodied intentionality; see Richard Shusterman, Body Consciousness: a Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

[9] Barone and Eisner, 4.

[10] Barone and Eisner, 4.

[11] Barone and Eisner, 5, 12.

[12] Sandra Faulkner, Poetry as Method: Reporting Research through Verse (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2009), 34.

[13] Patricia Leavy, Method Meets Art: Arts-based Research Practice (New York: Guilford Press, 2009), quotes in 63. This notion of silence in relation to poetry is related to a phenomenological reduction; see pages 9-10 in this journal for a clarification of the latter term.

[14] Miles Richardson, “Poetics in the Field and on the Page,” Qualitative Inquiry 4, no. 4 (1998): 459, accessed November 28, 2011, doi:10.1177/107780049800400401.

[15] Richardson, 451.

[16] Monica Prendergast, “The Phenomena of Poetry in Research,” introduction to Poetic Inquiry: Vibrant Voices in the Social Sciences, ed. Monica Prendergast, Carl Leggo, and Pauline Sameshima (Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers, 2009), xxxv-xxxvii, quote in xxxvii.

[17] Prendergast, xxxvii.

[18] Leavy, 84.

[19] For example during Murdoch’s stay at Cambridge (1947-1948), there were many women studying there but they were not allowed to graduate until 1948. Also according to Peter J. Conradi within Murdoch’s journals, the word ‘touched’ was essential to her. Yet, in a detached discourse the expression ‘profoundly touched’ could represent bias and emotional noise. Murdoch also wanted a less elitist philosophical discourse, so the mundane and ordinary people could feel part of the discourse; see Peter J. Conradi, Iris Murdoch: a Life (New York: Norton, 2001), 261-262, 305, 633 footnote 1.

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