The Breath in Our Bones: Poetic Inquiry in Search of Air


Guest Editors:

Amanda Gulla, Adam Henze, Natalie Honein, Nicole Morris, Adam Podolski and Molly Sherman

"We cried and sobbed and wept and bled tears. But when we were finished all we could do was continue living." – Nnedi Okorafor (2010, p. 31)

On June 29th, 2020, The New York Times published an article surveying over 70 cases in the United States where people have died in police custody after uttering the phrase, “I can’t breathe” (Baker et al., 2020). The brutal killings of Black people such as Eric Garner, George Floyd, Ahmad Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, and countless others, have caused indignation across the world, forcing us to frame White supremacy and police brutality as a theft of breath. Indeed, the year 2020 seems like a year of reckoning for many people, and the novel coronavirus, widespread wildfires and other environmental disasters have encouraged artists and academics everywhere to reconsider the preciousness of breath.

In building upon the momentum gained during the 2019 International Symposium on Poetic Inquiry and its theme of honouring the International Year of Indigenous Languages, this special issue of JCACS aims to amplify and intersect such themes as the following: lost and found languages; unearthing the tongues that have fed us and informed our ways of being; dismantling of the settler-colonizer paradigm; exposing the disparities within the healthcare system before and during a global pandemic; and of course the blight of White supremacy. All of these themes challenge our capacity to access air. The poet-researcher Camea Davis (2018) stated that poets yield a particular power to “resist passivity, and critique the prescribed politics of their lived experiences” (p. 124). It is critical in the current state of a pandemic and civil uprisings, where large segments of humanity are struggling for breath, for this poetic power to be harnessed to bring to the centre and amplify the voices of the marginalized. Poetic inquiry offers us a means to be bold in a fragile time (Prendergast et al., 2009; Faulkner & Cloud, 2019). It is a way to paint a concrete depiction of a world that appears to be falling apart. It is a way to brand complex political messages to stake out and occupy a new space when the virus says we cannot. Invitation: We invite research presented at the 2019 International Symposium on Poetic Inquiry, as well as new poetic inquiry, using a wide variety of methodological approaches, including critical prose, poetry, visual art and multimedia creations. We seek work that engages, plays with, ignites and challenges notions of action in a time of legislated inaction, work that counteracts silencing the breath inside our bones. We are looking for oxygen where there is none.

Please submit an abstract of 200 words and a 50-word biography on the same page to under the “Breath” section. JCACS has its own style guide. For the submission, please follow APA 7 conventions and as we are an online journal, please use a sans-serif font, such as Arial or Calibri 12 point.


Timeline and Key Dates:

● Proposal submission deadline: February 15, 2021

● Proposal responses: March 1, 2021

● Deadline for full article: April 19, 2021

● Responses: June 14, 2021

● Anticipated publication date: October 2021



Baker, M., Valentino-DeVries, J., Fernandez, M., & LaForgia, M. (2020, June 29). Three Words. 70 Cases. The Tragic History of “I Can’t Breathe”. New York Times.

Davis, C. (2018). Writing the self: Slam poetry, youth identity, and critical poetic inquiry. Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal, (3)1, 90-113.

Faulkner, S., & Cloud, A. (Eds.). (2019). Poetic inquiry as social justice and political response. Vernon.

Okorafor, N. (2010). Who fears death. DAW/Penguin.

Prendergast, M., Leggo C., & Sameshima, P. (Eds.). (2009). Poetic inquiry: Vibrant voices in the social sciences. Brill/Sense.