Available for reading: Write on the DOT, Volume IV

On Tuesday, Write on the DOT launched its fourth volume of creative writing from Dorchester and UMass Boston writers on the patio at The Blarney Stone.

Write on the DOT started in 2011 as a reading series coordinated by UMass Boston MFA students to support and promote local writing. Since then, we have featured over a hundred readers of diverse backgrounds and writing genres. We have hosted a Teen Writers Showcase and a Human Library event—both at the Fields Corner library. We have partnered with local writing non-profits 826Boston and WriteBoston, and have innovated literary games like The Meta-Free-Phor-All and the Insta-Poet Challenge.

Our books create a shared space, too: a neighborhood of pages.

Write on the DOT: Volume IV features Dorchester and UMass Boston writers with a broad range of backgrounds and voices. Inside you’ll find poetry and short fiction, local art and photography. I think about walking through Dorchester with my dog, Rocco, regularly hearing Spanish, Cape Verdean Creole, Polish, and Vietnamese, not to leave out all stripes of English-isms and accents.

Like a neighborhood, a book is a place where all our languages live together.

I moved to Dorchester to be part of this kind of community. Dorchester beckoned with its variety of peoples and stories about whom I could learn and learn from. When I arrived in 2010, I enjoyed the unfamiliarity of ordering bahn mi on Dot Ave, of hearing the voice of Cesária Évora through neighbor windows. This is how writers—or any of us—should strive to be: curious about each other, never too surrounded by our own reflection.

At a national level, our words feel imperiled. We are wary and weary of politicians and media that normalize dangerous language. Author Toni Morrison said in her 1993 Nobel lecture: “Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.”

Creative writing takes a sledgehammer to the language of conformity and complicity. Reading and writing are actions of empathy at their core, pushing us beyond the limits of our selves. I like to joke that now more than ever it is important to say “now more than ever,” but it’s true: communities need writers now and always. To dare. To repair. To perform acts of radical hope and imagine ways forward.

So read local. And write local. Invest attention in the people and stories around you. Instead of reading the latest James Patterson book this summer, pick up a chapbook of poetry like “How Her Spirit Got Out” by Krysten Hill (UMB MFA 2013) available from Aformentioned Productions, or “Soul Psalms” by U-Meleni Mhlaba-Adebo available at home.stead bakery and café in Fields Corner.

Or, start with Write on the DOT: Volume IV, a collection we assembled just for you.

I’m grateful to Dorchester for my place in it. I appreciate others who recognize this neighborhood’s unique fabric and vitality, who actively work not to supplant but to help grow what is already here.

After a while, the unfamiliar becomes familiar and then you’re at home in the world. That happens in language, too, in our stories. So read something that challenges you or that reaches a yet undiscovered region of your heart. To paraphrase Walt Whitman: You are vast, Dorchester. You contain multitudes.