Mungu Ni Pendo

by Maria Lahman

Author's Note: I formed this research poem from in-depth interviews with my nieces, Mica and Noa Yoder. The interviews were about Sept. 11, 2001 and occurred a year after the tragedy. My nieces were 4 and 7 years-old at the time and were walking to school with their mother, my sister, Katrina, in Manhattan, when the planes were directed into the Trade Towers. At the outset of the interview Noa sang a song that is symbolic of our extended family, J. Clyde Shenk, Alta Barge Shenk, and Miriam Wenger Shenks’, Anna Kathryn Shenk Eby's, and Omar Eby’s connection to East Africa as Mennonite missionaries. I have woven these lyrics throughout the poem. My regret is the reader cannot hear Noa’s child voice in song. The Swahili text Mungu ni Pendo translates to the song, "For God So Loved Us."

Research poetry, a blending of aesthetic and scientific representation, exists between the boundaries of art and science. Research poets are interested in blurring scientific writing principles as a way of allowing people to see and understand research findings in new ways. Some have even claimed that the poetic form may be more accessible. This position while arguable (Lahman, et. al 2011) underscores the poetic form possibly causing research to be understood differently from the scientific paper.

Research poetry of the nature seen in this poem is commonly referred to as transcription poetry (Glesne, 1997; eg. Lahman, 2011; Teman, 2010), where the poem lines are derived directly from an interview transcript. This type of poetry has seen more recent acceptance in progressive science areas most likely due to the erroneous feel that the lines are objective facts. Readers will wish to consider the deeply interpretive nature of, first, the act of transcription (eg. How does one choose where to punctuate speech?), second, the poet’s choice of which text to use in the poem, and third, how to form the text within the poem. For further reading please see Lahman et. al (2010) for discussion of research poetry including autoethnographic and formed representations.

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