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I offer here three poems which engage a feminist approach to gender and the body. They emanate (tangentially) from my ethnographic work in schools and my own embodied experiences as a woman. While I write more conventional academic prose and conduct research in schools on gender and sexuality (Fitzpatrick 2018; Fitzpatrick and Enright 2017; Fitzpatrick and McGlashan in press, 2016; McGlashan and Fitzpatrick 2017, 2018), I offer a poetic exploration of these issues here in an attempt to engage with writing that is both cognitive and sensory (Sparkes and Smith 2014), while evoking emotion, cultural nuance and reflexivity (Faulkner 2009). In so doing, I also bring myself directly into the text (Brkich and Barko 2013) in the hope that a different kind of engagement with issues of body may result.
The contemporary moment offers up many challenges to writing about gender, sexuality and the body. As gender binaries are broken down and challenged, and new approaches to the body and sexuality are engaged (e.g. Allen and Rasmussen 2017), new challenges are posed. Engaging in poetic inquiry (Rinehart 2012; Richardson 1994) into gender and sexuality might help reimagine gender and body in aesthetic as well as political ways. Such an engagement is personal, disruptive and uncertain.
In this, I am inspired by Patti Lather’s (2007, 6) notion of being lost. She encourages researchers to embrace getting lost, as a process “which shakes any assured ontology of the ‘real,’ of presence and absence, a postcritical logic of haunting and undecidables.” I contend that all ethnographic work is in some ways lost, at the very least in issues of politics, representation and voice (Fitzpatrick in press). Lather (2007, 1) calls such engagement with uncertainty and voice “getting lost at the limits of representation”. She explains that: “At its simplest, getting lost is something other to commanding, controlling, mastery. At its most complex...we spend our lives with language trying to make it register what we have lost, longing for lost wholeness.” (11). Poetry is one way to engage with a methodology of being lost; one way to engage a struggle to communicate what we cannot ever adequately represent (Rinehart, 2012). In this spirit, I offer the following poems, which engage with being lost at the edges of gender sexuality and body, and which can only communicate my own experience, in intersection with what I read, discuss and observe socially and politically.