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The Perch

A creative arts journal with a mental health theme

We are now accepting submissions for:

SUBSTANCE – the substance use issue

We invite original works of poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction, music, visual art, and academic writing. The theme is substance use. For our thoughts on the theme, please read below.

To submit, please visit: The deadline is August 15, 2023.

SUBSTANCE, our 2023 issue, is developed and co-produced by the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health and the College of Letters at Wesleyan University.


Substance use is an ancient, worldwide practice. We human beings have always sought to alter our minds, often in rituals that make us feel better, help us access new realities, and/or bind us closer to our communities. Yet drugs and alcohol can carry grave risks—increasingly so as substances are managed by large capitalist systems, or manufactured from dangerous chemicals in clandestine drug laboratories outside U.S. borders. The use or even possession of some substances is considered a crime, one that carries stiff penalties such as fines or prison time. The global pandemic has complicated the issue, as increasing numbers of people have been observed to be turning to alcohol and drugs in these uncertain times. Stigma, the harsh legal consequences, and social distancing have increased occurrences of consuming substances alone. From private living rooms to public park benches, more people are dying from overdose and a tainted drug supply.

Yet there is hope. The community of providers who care for those who use drugs is getting stronger, louder, and clearer about what addiction is, how to support people who use drugs, and what people need to cope. In recent years, virtually every American has been touched by the substance use crisis in some way; as the public pays more attention, stigma declines, advocacy rises, and innovative life-saving treatments become more widely available.

What we’re looking for

For the next issue of The Perch, we seek diverse creative works that capture the complexities of substance use and will help to deepen our audience’s understanding of this critically important subject.

We will publish original pieces of poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction, visual art, and music that illuminate the experience of using substances and/or offer perspectives on the wider contexts of substance use. We are interested in any and all experiences and perspectives—from staying safe while using drugs to maintaining sobriety, from experiencing trauma to keeping hope alive, from incarceration to health care, including harm reduction, medication assisted treatment, individual therapy, recovery groups, spiritual healing, acupuncture, safe consumption sites, needle exchanges, and more.

We are looking for pieces that center first-person experience and reflect concrete realities. We hope to capture a range of vantage points: those who use substances or have done so in the past, as well as community witnesses such as friends, family members, neighbors, care practitioners, and even strangers whose accounts hold power and insight.

[Non] Traditional Scholarship

New this year, we are also looking for academic work that is accessible to a general audience. Works by people who study substance use and/or related issues should reflect the writer-scholar’s unique “perch” or vantage point. We are interested in work that expands the boundaries of traditional scholarship. Areas of interest include but are not limited to history, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, literature, visual art, and the performing arts. In keeping with the spirit of The Perch, academic writers are encouraged to take creative risks.

For more information about THE PERCH or its 2023 issue SUBSTANCE, please email our Managing Editors, Dr. Chyrell Bellamy or Charles Barber .

About The Perch

We founded The Perch in 2013 to bring creative and artistic voices into the conversation about mental health. Artists, creative writers, musicians—you are the best at capturing complexity. At PRCH, we’re academic researchers and policy advisors; some of us have our own lived experiences of mental health and substance use. We understand the complexities of mental health. We also know that academic tools have limits. So we turned to the arts.

We think of a "perch" as a vantage point from which to gain perspective. The Perch complements our program’s core focus on mental health in all its dimensions, from personal to community-based to its engagement with broad social concerns. For us, mental health has many aspects—physical, emotional, social, civic, political, cultural, spiritual, and more. With The Perch we hope to expand the mental health narrative to include new and unexpected voices, ideas, and creative expressions.

We invite submissions from artists and writers across the U.S. and abroad, including people in recovery from all backgrounds and experiences.