Following the Golden Thread: Poetry as Guide, Poetry as Witness




Borhani, Maya Tracy

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This dissertation will consider the role poetry has played as guide and witness in one older woman’s journey with “living poetically” (Leggo, 2005a) as both artistic and scholarly praxis, both in and out of the academy. Through autobio-ethnographic life writing (Hasebe-Ludt, Chambers & Leggo, 2009) interspersed with topical, theoretical, and autobiographical poetic inquiry (Prendergast, 2009), the author unfolds glimpses into this lifelong journey, the appearance of significant mentors, and the role of poetry as pedagogy, as social justice tool, and as personal metiér. Leaning on William Blake’s metaphor of a “golden thread” (1804/1988) that draws us forward and guides us in life (and in our poetic endeavours), the stories in this memoir-like journey also catalogue a reverence for a constantly emergent lived curriculum (Aoki, 2004) and for place- and land-centred pedagogies, emphasizing a more conscious relationship with the living world and our human interdependence within all of creation. I trace the connection between a golden thread that guides, leads and supports us in life (and therefore, in education) and this idea of living poetically, inquiring into open-ended, generative questions that inspire further questions in the asking, opening space for creative rumination and rhizomatic lines of thought- and artistic-flight (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987). The research is presented as a compilation of articles and book chapters published while I have been engaged in this PhD. This study strives to offer something good to say in bleak times, as well an awareness of the importance of the heart’s voice in pedagogy (and likewise, in life), and the value of simple things like poetry in our individual and collective learning; to show that poetry can, indeed, (help) heal the world. Advocating for poetry as curricular and pedagogical asset, this study champions teachers as public intellectuals (Giroux, 1985), as cultural and climate activists and educators, and as social poets (Prendergast, 2012; Rukeyser, 1938/2018) making time for poetry as essential pedagogy.



Poetic Inquiry, Autobiography, Autoethnography, Life Writing, Writing as Inquiry, Poetic Pedagogy, Land-based Pedagogies, Performative Pedagogies, Poetry and Oral Tradition