This issue of Departures in Critical Qualitative Research (DCQR) offers up a collection of innovations in arts-based research—research that, as Patricia Leavy writes, adapts the “tenets of the creative arts in order to address social research questions in holistic and engaged ways.”1 Arts-based approaches to critical qualitative research aim to “illuminate something about the social world, sensitively portray people and their circumstances, develop new insights about the relationships between our sociohistorical environments and our lives, or disrupt dominant narratives and challenge biases.”2 

Critical arts-based research takes various approaches—“ordering, patterning, and shaping”3—in order to find ways of making our world more open, more appreciative of and attentive to difference, and more just. As Caroline Levine writes, “one of the places where humans have some agency is in the orders that we impose: our spatial and temporal arrangements, our hierarchies of value and distributions of wealth—our forms.”4 Change in research and in our world can be achieved by paying, calling, and giving attention to form. This is something artists have been teaching us for a long time, if not forever—calling attention to form, a riff on form, a shift in form, asks us to see, feel, hear, and listen, and understand differently.

The essays in this issue ask us to see, feel, hear and listen, and understand through narrative and autoethnographic storytelling, performance, drawing, PechaKucha (a style of presentation with 20 slides or images that are shown for 20 seconds each), photography, and video. Each offering has its own form and pushes, shifts, and takes that form in new directions. Each is a “matter of clear rules and unspoken understandings,” a “matter of need and expectation,” a “matter of breaking rules, of dialogue, [of] crossover between forms.”5 

And by way of introduction to this collection of arts-based takes on form, I take Ali Smith's injunction to breed form from forms6 through found poetry, itself a dialogue with and in form. Found poems begin with “existing” texts—in this case, the texts that comprise this issue of DCQR—and present them in poetic form. “A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found.”7 The poet's work is the work of “form”—as the poet shapes the poem, the poem finds its form and form produces itself “out of a meeting of opposites, of different things; out of form encountering form.”8 In the work of form—and of arts-based critical qualitative research—we create both a dwelling place and a space for change.

After the Fireworks

After the Fireworks
Departure points:
Begin where the body remembers,
the sum of its accruals,
the weight of many indignities.
Heads bowed, turning slowly in unison, prepared to engage
a body of encounter.
Dreaming self and social worlds:
the space between the body and the story it tells.
We understand something by approaching it,
using our eyes, our ears, our noses, our intellects, our imaginations.
We approach it with silence, with childhood, with pain or embarrassment.
Would our stories matter?
The flavor of home:
fierce landscapes,
dispelling myths,
giving time,
moving to louder risks,
locating enchantment.
Looking out the window:
slow world now moving faster
distinct before that is never the same after.
Peace witness, history of history;
We were prepared for rest, but not for your call.
What is knowing anyway?
What we believe we know,
what was lost,
we know the drill.
Survive multiple enactments,
part of our semiotic equipment.
20 moments, 20 memories, 20 migrations on repeat:
seizing hold in a moment of danger,
watching the clock tick down
2 hours at a time.
At night, though, it was mostly quiet.
Encounters with the unforeseen:
not merely the prefigured; witness.
Vulnerable to reinvention,
a public and most private act.
Resisting business as usual.
And after the fireworks, we want more.


Patrica Leavy, Method Meets Art: Arts-Based Research Practice (New York: Guilford Press, 2015), ix.
Ibid., 17.
Caroline Levine, Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), 3.
Ibid., xii.
Ali Smith, Artful (New York: Penguin, 2012), 67.
“Found Poem: Poetic Form,”, 14 September 2004,
Smith, Artful, 69.