It came to my attention that some journals in the humanities started publishing poems written by academics. Here are two examples:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1077800417736333 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0740770X.2018.1477243

It strikes me as odd, that these poems do not seem to be published as historical sources or subject of investigation, but as academic contributions on par with peer-reviewed papers. I used to think that it is a common feature of all academic practices that their result is open to scrutiny of some form. Yet I can think of no form of scrutiny that is meaningfully applicable to poems.

What is the reasoning behind the publication of poems in academic journals?

  • 5
    I know some journals that use contributions like this as "filler": if they have space that would otherwise be left blank (e.g. because they start each article on a new page), they print a poem or illustration or short note that wouldn't meet their normal publication standards for significance or novelty, but which they think readers might still enjoy. The American Mathematical Monthly does this, for instance. But I am not sure if that is the case here. Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 14:42
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    I'm not sure what you mean by your remark about "scrutiny", though. Surely it is possible for a peer reviewer to evaluate a poem for literary merit. Artistic fields like creative writing, music composition, etc, do this all the time. This would of course be somewhat subjective, but peer review always contains a subjective element. Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 14:46
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    Can you provide evidence that the poems are “published as academic contributions on par with peer-reviewed papers”? Journals publish all sorts of content and not all of it is regarded as on par with all other content. For example a correction notice or letter to the editor would not be considered equivalent to a full article.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 15:44
  • @NateEldredge Thank you for your remark about the possibility to evaluate poems for artistic merit. It made me realize that I read these poems under the preconception that the publishing journals focus on inquiry of something beyond artistic practice itself and are thus likely to publish contributions that strive for true assertions about their subject. Poems do not strike me as viable media to claim truth, but rather to express authentic impressions and feelings. At least in the case of the second poem, my assumption about the interest of the journal might indeed be false.
    – 303
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 16:04
  • @DanRomik No, I have no evidence. My impression is based on the presence of features I deemed typical for articles: an abstract and keywords mentioning „inquiry“, „investigation“ and „methodology“. Furthermore I was indeed unfamiliar with the custom of publishing poems in journals for enjoyment, a practice mentioned by NateEldredge in another comment.
    – 303
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 16:14

1 Answer 1


Your first reference comes from Qualitative Inquiry journal, that describes themselves as:

Qualitative Inquiry (QI) provides an interdisciplinary forum for qualitative methodology and related issues in the human sciences. The journal publishes open-peer reviewed research articles that experiment with manuscript form and content, and focus on methodological issues raised by qualitative research rather than the content or results of the research. QI also addresses advances in specific methodological strategies or techniques.

Emphasis is mine. It seems that publishing poem in that case comments on the fact that insomnia affects general academic performance. That is an "experiment with manuscript form" that addresses statistics of insomnia.

Your second reference comes from "Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory" which aims to publish:

scholarly essays from interdisciplinary feminist perspectives. For us, “women” and “performance” denote not simply what we study but how we study it—that is, not preconceived objects of analysis, but rather an open assembly of political, ethical, and aesthetic orientations, feminism chief among them. We encourage dialogues among various fields of performance scholarship, including theater and performance studies, dance studies, music history and criticism, ethnography, new and digital media, cinema studies, and cultural studies; as well as queer, critical race, and post- and decolonial theory. Working with/in this disciplinary hybridity, we explore critiques of gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, dis/ability, technology, nation, and capitalism.

Emphasis is mine. That poem seems to connect work of the artists and current events, put work of artists into context. But that is just an opinion.

The shorter answer TL;DR would be that these poems represent unconventional (for Science/Nature/Cell readers) opinion pieces.

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