This year's Speakeasy season opener will feature voices from The Unpublished City, an IFOA Toronto Lit Up anthology curated by Dionne Brand and published in limited edition by Bookthug. The collection—which features no fewer than eight MFA students and alumni among its contributors—brings together an energetic and eclectic group of emerging Toronto writers from whom we can expect to hear a lot more in future.
In honour of new voices, underground role-models, and unheralded inspirations beyond the 'famous writers club,' we asked contributors to give a shout out to some of their grassroots influences:
My students influence me. As a high school teacher at St John Paul II, I am deeply influenced and inspired by the work of young people. The use of their imagination to think outside the box, explore, play and take risks is refreshing. Reading and hearing their work reminds me that there are no rules when it comes to writing. My students have taught me this. Creativity is about exploration, fun and a world of endless possibilities. This is why I fell in love with writing in the first place.
S/o Jacquelyn Ross's book artist hybridity and giggles; s/o Lindsay Miles's queer intensity and ridiculous poet smarts; s/o Jeff Kirby's tears on stage and ultra generosity in these parts; s/o Laboni Islam's STILL unplublished poem I LOVE; Simone Dalton's bosshood; Adnan Khan's formative reticence; Mahak Jain's thoughtfulness never ever stopping, among others.
I decided to take some writing courses through various continuing education programs in the city when I was still working up the courage to apply to Guelph’s MFA program. I took a non-fiction class with Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall at U of T and one of my classmates, Jill Tomac, blew my mind with this piece on woad or blue dye. I had no idea about this thing, but it was the perfect example of what I learned later from Karen Connelly, a writer's task to "orient a reader in time." I still have Jill's piece, still marvel at lines like: "As a light hue it borrows grace from a clear morning sky and, at its greatest intensity, projects sheer opulence; the richness is subtle in its expansiveness, delicately mottled with hints of red and yellow pigmentation.” Just brilliant!
My friend, the writer Jean Marc Ah-Sen, has had a big influence on my thinking; he's like my accomplished doppelganger: same age, grew up in the same part of Toronto, but wife, kid, a rigorous moral compass & a great published first novel (Grand Menteur) that reorganizes our thinking of Diaspora fiction & language simultaneously. He's also a vegetarian!
I’ve been impacted by the informed perseverance and genuine enthusiasm of writer Jennilee Austria, whose grassroots work with newcomer Filipino youth permeates her fiction in beautifully illuminating ways. I love Jennilee’s ability to make public spaces intimate in her fiction, I love the brightness and warmth when Jennilee reads her work aloud, and I love the way her grounded, but uplifting optimism is making its mark in the Can lit scene.
Alumni contributors Nicole Chin and Canisia Lubrin will join Diana, Shoilee, and Simone on this Thursday's packed line up, which also includes Doyali Islam, Laboni Islam, Ian Kamau, Sofia Mostaghimi, Sanchari Sur, and Phoebe Wang.
Come out and celebrate The Unpublished City, and join us all year at Speakeasy for electrifying readings by students, graduates and guests.
Thursday, Sept. 28
Doors at 7:30. Readings at 8:00. The Steady Cafe & Bar [1051 Bloor St. W.]
FaceBook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/121032181797917/