Mungu Ni Pendo

An experiment in research-based poetry with footnotes

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.

Mungu ni Pendo[i]

When the Trade Towers
fell down
we were
going to school.

Mungu ni pendo.

Mom heard a big BOOM.
That was the plane going in.
Mom thought someone exploded the
Trade Tower from the BOOM.

Apenda watu[ii].

I think my sister first said,
“Is there war?
“Is this earth bombs”?

Mungu ni pendo.

Mom said, “Fire”?
Then she noticed
the Trade Towers.
A lady told me
a plane had
went into
the Trade Towers.
We saw smoke and
a few dots of fire.


When we stopped
at school
Mom looked, and
the Trade Towers
weren’t there.
Mom wanted to see it so much.
I wanted Mom to read to me.
Mom started crying.
Mom called
the police,
the fire department,
my dad,
and then
she just
stood there.


I felt scared.
I was
on us,
or the school,
or something.

Furaha yangu[v].

Going home from school,
I got really scared.
I thought Osama
would try to blow up
Menno house,
‘cause that’s where
we were staying.
It made me really scared.

Mungu ni pendo.

When we got home
to Menno House
our preacher was praying
for the people in
the Trade Towers,
and the hospital,
and the firefighters.
I asked him to
pray for my friend’s Dad.


Noa and I each chose
a candle that we lit
for a while.
We sold brownies
and cookies [with]
NYC on them.
We made more
than 70 dollars.
We…[gave] it to
the firefighters and
the hospitals.
There was a
newspaper picture
that showed a
a Bald Eagle
The Nation’s

Mungu ni pendo.

Two years ago
my dad worked there
on the 86th floor,
I think.

Apenda watu.

Dad and Mom said,
It is wrong
we were
fighting a war
against Anghafistan [Sic].

Mungu ni pendo.

I think
should be called
Sadderists [Sic]
since they
make grief.


[i] The title of this poem is the Swahili translation of the song, For God So Loved Us.

[ii] He sent the Savior.

[iii] And loves me too.

[iv] Love so unending.

[v] I’ll sing his praises.

[vi] Loves even me.


I would like to thank the Yoder family, Katrina, Mike, Mica, and Noa for their support of this work and know they will write of this event one day


Furman, R. (2006). Poetic forms and structures in qualitative health research. Qualitative
Health Research
, 16(4), 560-566.

Glesne, C. (1997). That rare feeling: Re-presenting research through poetic transcription.
Qualitative Inquiry, 3, 202-221.

Lahman, M. K. E. (2011). I’m All Woman[en]. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(12) 126-129. Lahman M. K. E., Rodriguez K. L., Richard, V. M., Geist M. R., Schendel R. K., &

Graglia P. (2011). (Re)Forming research poetry. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(9) 887–

Lahman, M. K. E., Geist, M. R., Rodriguez, K. L., Graglia, P. E., Richard, V. M., &

Schendel, R. K. (2010). Poking around poetically: research, poetry, and
trustworthiness. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(1), 39-48.

Teman, E. (2010). Now he’s not alive. Qualitative Inquiry. Retrieved from

About the Author

Maria Lahman

Maria K. Eby Lahman is a professor of Qualitative Research in the Department of Applied Statistic and Research Methods, in the College of Education, at the University of Northern Colorado. Her specialty areas are the advancement of ethical research with an emphasis on diversity and young children and the blending of aesthetic and scientific writing. Maria lives with her husband Brent, children Martin and Kate, and a dozen urban chickens in Greeley, CO.