From time to time I've tried to explain to colleagues in other disciplines that sociology is a discipline of low disciplinarity. In other words, that it consists of many local cultures, pursuing incommensurable and sometimes quite incomprehensible objectives (thus rendering the RAE, REF process absurd). For effect, I often used to say that there is no general agreement about methodological or even epistemological rules of the game, and that there will be some sociological backers even for the idea that poetry is as good as careful data analysis as a way of apprehending the world and reporting your conclusions.
Of course reactions to these view ranged from puzzled bemusement, through "he must be exaggerating" and "obviously this can't be true" to "the man is obviously a malicious nutcase". Well, yes, I was exaggerating (slightly), but as is often the case, truth is stranger than fiction. Sociology, the flagship journal of the British Sociological Association, has published an article in the form of a poem called The Rime of the Globalised Mariner: In Six Parts (with Bonus Tracks from a Chorus of Greek Shippers) written by one Michael Bloor of Cardiff University. It's behind a pay-wall but you can get a flavour of it from this BBC Wales report. Potential readers will be relieved to know that it comes, in T.S. Eliot style, with a set of explanatory notes and a curious sentence in the acknowledgements: "Lastly, I wish to thank the editors for their willingness to publish this piece of public sociology, since long poems are effectively unpublishable, unless written by Seamus Heaney."
Let's hope Bloor's knowledge of international shipping is more accurate than his knowledge of contemporary narrative poetry. Hasn't he heard of Tony Harrison, Craig Raine...? No doubt opinion will be divided by Bloor's versification but speaking personally I'll be getting my nautical poetry, should I feel the need, from poetry books. Anyone for Sailing to Byzantium?