Although attempts to define a genre are
doomed to failure and inevitably invite a cascade
of counter arguments, refutations, and modifi
cations, readings of Sanders, Forche, Scott,
Rothenberg, Snyder, and Brady suggest that
investigative poetry exhibits these characteristics:
An attempt to supplement poetic imagery
with evidence won through scholarly
research, with the hope that merging art
and archive makes our poetry more worldly
and our politics more personal.
An attempt to use reference matter not only
to support political arguments but also as a
tool to provide readers with additional
information and empowerment.
An attempt to problematize the self by
studying the complex interactions among
individuals and their political contexts,
hence witnessing both the fracturing of the
self and the deep implication of the author
in the cultural and political systems that he
or she examines.
An attempt to problematize politics by wit
nessing the ways social structures are embo
died as lived experience, hence adding to
political criticism ethnographic, phenomen
ological, and existential components.
An attempt to situate these questions about
self and society within larger historical nar
ratives, thereby offering poems that func
tion as genealogical critiques of power.
An attempt to produce poems that take a
multi perspectival approach, not by cele
brating or criticizing one or two voices but
by building a constellation of multiple
voices in conversation.
A deep faith in the power of commitment,
meaning that to write an investigative
poetry of witness the poet must put himself
or herself in harms way and function not
only as an observer of political crises but
also as a participant in them.
SEE ALSO: Anti War and Peace Move
ments; Autoethnography; Buddhism; Capital
ism; Class, Perceptions of; Class, Status, and
Power; Collective Trauma; Colonialism (Neo
colonialism); Crime, Corporate; Ethnography;
Personal is Political; Poetics, Social Science;
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