chapter  6
9 Pages

Alice in Computerland 1

ByLaurel Richardson

I was a published poet before I was a sociological ethnographer. For 30 years. I belonged to the "Women's Poetry Workshop", where I learned craft and critique. I still begin most days with either the reading or writing of poetiy because I want the sense of the poetic in my mind before I begin my academic writing. My favourite poets - such as Robert Frost. Billy Collins, and Mary Oliver - all write poems that are understandable, literally and metaphorically. Their writing deploys standard poetic devices such as rhythm, assonance, alliteration, replication and variation, but does not call attention to these devices because they write using a 'natural-sounding' voice. It is that 'natural-sounding voice' that I also seek in my et hnographies - my voice as narrator and the exact speech of my ethnographic hosts. Because 'voice' is central to both my poetry and my ethnographic practices. I read my prose writing aloud, listening for awkward phrases and ungainly rhythms, and listening for places where a poetic device (such as doubling or alliteration) might intensify the text, snap it up. or evoke in the reader a sigh or a laugh. Poetry loosens my claim to 'knowing-it-all'; it is my good and dependable partner in discovering what I didn't know. When I pay attention, it can lead me past description to theoiy.