Speak Out! Issue 1 edited by Peter Sipeli

This is the first edition of an Adda online journal series. Adda is an online journal published by Commonwealth Writers. There are four editions of Speak Out!, each with a different editor. Peter Sipeli of Fiji edits Issue 1 which features seven writers. You can read the full issue online.

I think I’ll be talking about each Issue and I’ve just got through all I’m going to get through of Issue 1 which is most of it. I’ll be talking about the stories and/or poems that I liked in the order they appear in the publication.

Like Jamaican writer Lloyd D’Aguilar’s “Things must Change“, a story I commented back when I read it during this year’s #readCaribbean month. I described it as a tense read about classism and crime but really desperation and hope in an uneven society.

‘Me wi take anything you have you know Miss. Tings kind ah rough wid me.’FROM LLOYD D’AGUILAR’S “THINGS MUST CHANGE”

It was a strong opener about a man at the end of his financial rope a place the story indicates he finds himself pretty much on the daily. On this day’s end, he is tested in a couple of ways when he comes upon a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I like how his humanity and the tenderness in him, as well as the system’s biases, are front and center. It is dark in terms of the circumstances, light in terms of the who; and grey in all the best ways.

“Washie waved him off and Jared walked away, depressed, but turning the thought of stealing over in his mind. It was as if the thought had given him an adrenalin rush. It was the antidote to his depression and sense of hopelessness. He had to walk towards the bright lights. Nothing was happening in the dark.”FROM LLOYD D’AGUILAR’S “THINGS MUST CHANGE”

Chaos Theory” by Nnadi Samuel of Benin (the collection also includes “Non-Binary Worship”)

 “she mourned the boyhood I left behind.
I picked a different nominal that defies her blessings:
anything to keep me out of her mouth.”FROM “CHAOS THEORY” BY NNADI SAMUEL

The poet does interesting things with the interplay of language and theme; such sinuous lines.

“the smoke abates. I outlast the flame, half-baked.
kitchen shoutouts to all females, effeminate kids
and those risking their lungs to tear gas.
I wanted a poem without corpse.

I go gently towards the ruin, cradling a lover.
mallet and a proem in my hands.”FROM “CHAOS THEORY” BY NNADI SAMUEL

Dubem” by Nigerian writer Priscilla Keshiro had a sense of building dread and a real sense of now-ness, even urgency. Which one would expect in a story about protests against police brutality in Nigeria – the #EndSARS movement even catching fire online internationally during the pandemic. Our point of view character is new to it all.

This art by Rohini Mani of Madras accompanies Dubem and is my favourte artwork in this first issue.

“‘I want to go again,’ I blurted out. I had to. You see, Unlike Dubem, I was no walking billboard for justice. I was no born vigilante.  I did not have half of Dubem’s guts, so I blurted it out to keep the brewing anger inside me from bursting out.”FROM “DUBEM” BY PRISCELLO KESHIRO


The final story I’ll mention is “Atiya Firewood” by Dominican writer Lisa Latouche, in which the title character doesn’t fit in with nor earn the trust of the community she married in to and her desperate actions to save both herself and the daughter also considered odd by the community. The oddness in both mother and daughter being of the supernatural variety.

“Atiya removed their leather sandals. ‘The earth is a source of power, and it is important to connect with it to restore balance in our minds and our bodies.’”FROM “ATIYA FIREWOOD” BY LISA LATOUCHE

I also mentioned it during #readCaribbean month.

And those are the ones I rocked with from Issue 1.

ETA: Just realized I previously DNF’d this (see there is life after DNF’ing). When I did so, I said, ” Adda – Speak Out! Issue 1 – There are seven creative pieces in this first installment of the Speak Out! online journal published to the Commonwealth Writers platform Adda. I am entering it as DNF because I only read two in full as part of my #readCaribbean June reading. Those two are “Things must change” by Lloyd D’aguilar and “Attiya Firewood” by Lisa Latouche; the former of Jamaica and the latter of Dominica. Both stories were tense and violent social commentaries and riveting each in its own way – though one is in the urban jungle and one in a more rural, almost pre-modern space.” FYI.

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