The poetics of experience: a first-person creative and critical investigation of self-experience and the writing of poetry

PhD Thesis

Maltby, M. 2009. The poetics of experience: a first-person creative and critical investigation of self-experience and the writing of poetry. PhD Thesis University of Sussex Centre for Continuing Education
AuthorsMaltby, M.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification namePhD

There is increasing interest in the personal benefits of writing poetry and a growing field of practical application within healthcare. However, there is little direct research and a need for practice-based theoretical integration to improve understanding of the specific changes, creative processes and challenges involved.

This study investigates the way that writing poetry can affect self-experience. It also contributes to the development of combined modes of creative and critical inquiry. A first-person account of the experiential and creative outcomes of writing poetry over an extended period is presented. The results of this are subjected to reflexive analysis and a critical theoretical explication.

Four factors relating self-experience to the experience of writing poetry are identified: a failure of conscious intention; an inhibiting objectification of experience; an implicit assumption of a separate self, and a changed experience of self that felt more embodied and fluid. These findings are the basis of a theoretical examination that utilizes the work of Ignacio Matte Blanco and Michael Polanyi, in conjunction with insights derived from contemporary psychoanalysis, embodied cognition, neuroscience and attention training.

An original theoretical integration is developed. It is proposed that poetry has a characteristic bi-logical form that condenses and integrates difference and identity in a simultaneous and concentrated manner. The process of composition requires a reciprocal interplay of conscious and unconscious processes, which can be enhanced by an increase in embodied awareness, a decrease in the exercise of deliberate volition, and the facilitative use of images. This involves a flexible oscillation of awareness that, modulated by the breadth of attention and the degree of identification or separation from experience, directly alters the boundaries and quality of self-experience. This framework avoids the limitations of reductive or eliminative views of the self and allows for the creative operation of what is dubbed the 'nondual imagination'.

Publication process dates
Deposited31 Oct 2011
CompletedApr 2009
Output statusUnpublished
Accepted author manuscript
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