Geography students ‘write’ Toronto

The Imagining Toronto project has just released Urban TEXTures: Imaginative Renderings of Toronto, a limited-edition chapbook featuring poetry and prose by 18 York geography students.

The students are enrolled in Amy Lavender Harris’s fourth-year geography course, Imagining Toronto, and the chapbook was a class project. They spent the past four months exploring the city and its literature, then writing about it.

The Imagining Toronto project explores intersections of literature and place in the Toronto region. It is based on the idea that cities unfold not only in the building but in the telling of them.

The selections in Urban TEXTures are wide-ranging but coalesce around representations of a city experienced by young people with unique urban insights. The pieces are alternately suburban and central, humorous and sombre, unadorned and richly metaphorical, says Harris. The students have chronicled a city in flux, both welcoming and hostile.

Some, like Tyler Starzynski’s “So we Decided to Buy some Liquor”, Kris Bellissimo’s “T.O., Truthfully” and Alessandro Vescio’s “A Night to Remember”, offer young men’s voices infused with bravado and a love of action. Others, including Aisha Ahmed’s “Rooster that Woke Me Up to the City” and Rob Halko’s “News to Kween’s Music”, are simultaneously humorous and subversive. Kelly Falcioni’s “My Map to the City”, Theresa Ip’s “Any Other Street” and Alessandra Caschera’s “Lead” draw a map of loss. Stephanie Nunes’ “Underground” characterizes the jarring sense of vertigo and separation of subway travel, a motif explored along frozen pathways in Shakib Khan’s “Fear”. Liza Badaloo’s “The Dollar” lyrically choreographs an altercation with racism, classism, and sexism at the corner of Bloor and Spadina.

May Chew’s “Untitled” renders the city a labyrinth at once concrete and corporeal. Laura Hatcher’s “Lansdowne Avenue” conjures light and darkness along a perilous strip. Katherine Rudzik’s “Towering” and Angela Valle’s “Silent All These Years” inquire into the architectural and cultural sources of the city’s identity. Finally, Carmela Beninato’s “Five Sense Experience of Toronto”, Jessica DeSantis’ “The City Escape” and Maria Papadakis’ contribution invoke a Toronto ripe with colours, sounds, and smells and offer sensorial walking tours of the city.

The chapbook is being promoted within York’s Geography Department and beyond, including at Reading Toronto and through the Imagining Toronto project.

To receive a copy of Urban TEXTures, contact Amy Lavender Harris at

This story was submitted to YFile by Amy Lavender Harris, Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts.