Christ Would Break Your Tongue


  • Sheila Stewart University of Toronto



poetic inquiry, authority, gender, colonialism, residential schools, voice, church


“Christ Would Break Your Tongue” is part of my on-going exploration of growing up as a United Church minister’s daughter in small-town Ontario. In the title poem, I inquire into the interstices of gender, voice, and authority. In “Dominion” I grapple with how the Christian underpinnings of Western culture place humans above other creatures and lifeforms to the detriment of all living beings. In “Billy Stewart’s Geography” I begin to explore the church’s role in political oppression, colonialism, and residential schools, building on my poetic interests in family dynamics and place (Stewart, 2003; 2012). I use poetic inquiry (Butler-Kisber, Guiney Yallop, Stewart, & Wiebe, 2017; Faulkner, 2009; Galvin & Prendergast, 2016; Prendergast, Leggo, & Sameshima, 2009; Thomas, Cole, & Stewart, 2012) as a research method to reflect on and through language, letting the poems be the plumb-line of the research process. Poetry’s use of the associative, the particular, and the unconscious allow me to explore terrain which may have been previously un-worded. This is needed to write through shame and grief. I believe with Orr (2002) that “the more of our own stories that we can tell, the richer and more complex our selves become. The richer a use we make of our past experience, the more open we are to present experience” (p. 102). This openness is crucial in the search for word and action. Educator Maxine Greene (1977) calls us to be open or “awake.” How can poets be awake to this complex social/political moment and use their craft to speak? Poetry works with stories and lyric which are once personal, ideological and often shaped by religion. As a white settler Canadian, I strive to uncover the complicity of my religious and Northern Irish background in hierarchical and oppressive relations. My hope is to provoke.

Author Biography

Sheila Stewart, University of Toronto

Sheila Stewart is the author of The Shape of a Throat (Signature Editions) and A Hat to Stop a Train (Wolsak and Wynn). She co-edited The Art of Poetic Inquiry (Backalong Books). Her work has been published in such journals as the Literary Review of Canada, The Malahat Review, LEARNing Landscape, and Creative Approaches to Research. Sheila teaches in Women and Gender Studies and at the New College Writing Centre.




Butler-Kisber, L., Guiney Yallop, J. J., Stewart, M., & Wiebe, S. (Eds.) (2017). Poetic Inquiries of Reflection and Renewal. Halifax, NS: Nimbus.

Faulkner, S. L. (2009). Poetry as method: Reporting research through verse. New York, NY: Routledge.

Galvin, K., & Prendergast, M. (2016). Poetic Inquiry II – Seeing, caring, understanding: Using poetry as and for inquiry. Rotterdam, NL: Sense Publishers.

Greene, M. (1977). Toward Wide-Awakeness: An Argument for the Arts and Humanities in Education, Teachers College Record 79(1), 119-125.

Orr, G. (2002). Poetry as survival. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.

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

Stewart, S. (2003). A hat to stop a train. Toronto, ON: Wolsak and Wynn.

Stewart, S. (2012). The shape of a throat. Winnipeg, MN: Signature Editions.

Thomas, S., Cole, A. L., & Stewart, S. (Eds.). (2012). The art of poetic inquiry. (Volume 5, Arts-informed Inquiry Series). Big Tancock Island, NS: Backalong Books.




How to Cite

Stewart, S. (2018). Christ Would Break Your Tongue. Art/Research/International:/A/Transdisciplinary/Journal, 3(1), 258–265.