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Homeless writers find a voice with Megaphone magazine's literary issue

Photos of Onsite creative writing workshop by Jes Abeita.

Megaphone magazine, the homeless publication that gives a voice to people of the Downtown Eastside, is celebrating the launch of its special literary issue, Voices of the Street. 

The 68-page special edition of the magazine features stories, poetry and prose from Megaphone's writing workshops, which are run in treatment centres, social housing buildings and community centres in the Downtown Eastside and downtown Vancouver. Vendors buy each copy of this special issue for $2 and sell it on the street for $5.

Kevin Hollett, Megaphone's managing editor, says the special literary issue is a compilation of poems, stories, fiction and nonfiction by people in the DTES which were collected over the two years of the program's existence.

“These writing workshops encourage people who have been ignored their whole lives to speak and to grow and to heal,” says Hollett. "When you have an obstacle to overcome, you have to speak its name first and that’s what these workshops help them's not just a collection of words, it's a lifeline for these writers."


Voices of the Street contains first-hand accounts -- poems, fiction, nonfiction prose and essays -- about what it's like to be homeless, a sex worker, to have an addiction or a mental illness. They are illustrated with photographs from Hope in Shadows, taken by Downtown Eastside residents.

"Voices of the Street allows marginalized writers in Vancouver to have a voice," says Sean Condon, Megaphone's executive director. "Our writers show with great poetics what it's like to live in poverty and are able to dispel some of the myths and break down many of the stereotypes surrounding these issues."

Hollett says he has read through "hundreds" of submissions for the writing workshops, but a few remain etched into his memory.

"Melita Carlsen has this story about sitting on her bathroom floor, reflecting on this abusive relationship. It can't be more than 100 words, but there's so much emotion and history that's packed into those words," he says. He also recommends people reading Henry Doyle's "Downtown Eastside Alarm Clock", which he says is a "visceral" portrait of the community.  

This issue is part of the City of Vancouver's 125th anniversary celebrations and was published in partnership with PHS Community Services Society,Poetry is Dead magazine, and Hope in Shadows. 

On Tuesday, May 3rd, Megaphone is hosting an official launch event at the Waldorf Hotel (1489 E. Hastings) from 7 to 10 p.m., which will feature readings from writers published in Voices of the Street. Tickets are $10 and can be bought online at Eventbrite. Money raised will go toward the writing workshop program. 



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