Perhaps the term “methodology” encapsulates my Cixousian/life writing study, a methodology driven study? I know – Cixous’ writing defies notions of “method.” My point – exactly.
“get past the wall”
(Cixous, Coming to writing,1991)
How can we defy and re-defyne methods? Recognizing the ways in which gender, social forces and patriarchy shape practices of writing, and who can or can’t write. How can writing and methodology speak/communicate/commune-with life in new ways? I see Cixous’ writing as midwife-provocateur of such birthings, an invitation to break free of convention and “etiquette” (à la Sean W.), finding language, dreams, birth/death, the life of objects and poetic-philosophy – narratives in the narrative, turning/tuning towards words-in-themselves.
Tracing the educational genealogy of this study is to look at the forces of Coming to writing/ L’avenue à l’ecriture (Cixous 1991/1977) in my own life. I was a secret teenage poet. Poetry gave me a way into my-self, my emotions and scenes of life with others. I loved what words could do. I handed a file of my poems to a university professor in my first year of visual art studies. A well-known Ottawa poet, he let me into his writing class, with words of praise and promise for my writing. I entered and promptly dropped the class. I did not feel able to commit to both writing and visual art. Or I was afraid, of writing.
Growing up in a literary (reading) family, I read too, a lot. Mostly female authors, Virginia Wolfe and Doris Lessing were mainstays of my teenage years. I didn’t feel I was ‘novelist’ material, but I sensed the need to write. Reading gave me worlds and words and ways into life within and beyond my own. Years later, after community-based midwifery studies, and the birth of my first daughter, my entrance to a Master of Arts in Women’s Spirituality in San Francisco gave writing back to me. Who knew?
Who knew that poet, cultural theorist, and educator Judy Grahn (http://www.judygrahn.org/) would be there, nudging students along in her creative, generous ways, “did you write that story Nané?” In our classes, writing groups, and pedagogical immersions through women-centred scholarship, space, and ritual, hearing the stories of others, telling and re-finding my own stories, I recovered my desire to write.
Research methodology was key to this arrival. New feminist research methodologies were about creatively locating ourselves in our own lives as women. We could use the “I” word, a subjective voice! VOICE! Feminist qualitative research as “Organic Inquiry” (Clements, Ettling, Jenett, & Shields, 1998) opened these doors more. Art, writing, and the sacred could merge within me, in a community of e-mergence. I followed red threads that I yearned to, through women’s birth stories, midwifery, eco-feminism. This was the kind of research I had been longing to do through my years of living the birth-work, and reading women’s stories and healing ways. How to make research sing and soar, breath life, give life.
Into my PhD, I found arts-based researchers in education at UBC. Again, artists, writers and poets arrived, with communities of stories as our calling. Life writing with an arts-based research team began. And reading Cixous, more and more, things evolved to this place of reading-writing, in its potent-poetic transformative impact. All that is possible in reading-writing – its individual and collective sewing.
The cosmic sewing machine
In this classroom, I am made more,
in saying, telling, writing, following
my own tales/tails, letting words
come through, the flesh and blood of me,
words spin out into sentences, forming
a new body.
These soft glowing orbs
I can hand to others, placement of
figurative touch, head to hand to heart,
this funny mind-meld, enscribes my sensory
awareness, of being.
That story I told Judy, long ago
about the wolves calling, and she said,
“have you written that down?”
no – I hadn’t, but soon did,
now the thought often arises,
to write things down,
to stitch stories.
I am a bit more familiar with
this cosmic sewing machine,
the one Judy points to, saying,
“I have to get back to my sewing”
I look in the direction of her gaze,
to the sewing machine on the floor
and I think – that looks a lot
like a computer.
And so begins another way of thinking
about sewing, about writing.
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