Paths to Knowing: Poetry and Research

Professor Augusto Hacthoun, Eva Martinez (‘26)

Spanning over 60 books including both inter-library-loans and books from the Vassar Library, 68 archival documents, and countless hours spent close reading, the journey to understand both the processes of poetry and of research was a long one, but not one without reward. Professor Augusto Hacthoun and I (Eva Martinez ‘26) have attempted over these eight weeks to understand the connections between creative processes and scientific processes with the ultimate goal of understanding the question: is poetry research? 

I have come away from this project with a deeper understanding of both what it means to create, what it means to research, and what it means to study poetry in an academic context. The idea of scientific research seems far off from the deeply emotional process of poetic ode or elegy, but at the core of this project the similarities between research and composition are discovered. If one begins to understand research as a process or a method that can be generally defined and applied across a wide variety of subjects, one can then allow the focus to shift from the expected scientific rationale to a poetic one. Poetry, like science, allows a person to make observations of the broad and abstract, to focus onto that nebulous idea or image and then create specificity. Trading microscopes for rhyming dictionaries highlights a clear connection between the two modes of research. Through taking in Neruda’s elegy, and transforming it into an ode, Bishop undergoes a research process best corroborated by Paul Magee from the University of Canberra. Magee’s paper lays the groundwork for the concept of poetry as research and concludes with “For what is academic speech, really, if not an attempt to rein that contradictory multiple in and pretend it is one (Magee, 2009)?”  This is at heart, the core of this project, to make the seemingly contradictory ideas of poetry and research into one. 

If you would like to read more about our work this summer, please click here to be redirected to the website I have made documenting our project. 

Draft of Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore Courtesy of Vassar College Special Collections
Image of our shared table in the Meeker Room of the Vassar College Art Library