A Needed Intimacy: Élan, Spring 2020

One my favorite pieces in Élan’s spring edition is Noland Blain’s “When my Mother Calls Me to Say She Quits Being my Mother.” It takes a while, in this piece, for the narrator to come to terms with the fact that the mother is not somebody that they feel deserves to have the title of mother— but still, stuck in the past and the subconscious, likely from being manipulated into thinking the mother’s actions are somehow their fault, the speaker tries to understand their parent and why they, for some reason, feel bad about a relationship that clearly stopped being good for them.

Time and time again, I have heard my mother find ways to pin her dissatisfaction of the world on us children. For a long time, I took it personally when she would reach out to me only to say that she was done with us children, that we never loved her, were unappreciative and only wanted to do things that hurt her. Even as a child, even when I recognized that these words were only meant to get reactions, I ached. When I stopped talking to my mother, much like the narrator in this poem, I began to get nightmares that would scare me further and further away from wanting to call her my mother. I started to realize that there were and are times, definitely, that she isn’t. This poem articulates the desperate need to disengage from a parental relationship that many people have trouble articulating, especially when it comes to mothers, who we often expect to be the one person that will always love us and always be there when we need them.

The Spring Edition of Élan is packed with many deeply intimate and connective pieces such as this one– another that really sat with me was “Minor Grievances” by Katlynn Sherman, which explores how the speaker’s relationship with their paternal figure changes as she grows up and visits him in jail, now old enough to decide what this means to them and how they are going to process this moment and engage with the world from then on. What blows me away the most about this piece is that it was written by one of my good friends, and having talked to them about the situation in this piece and then reading the piece and seeing how they expressed and translated this piece into their art— it’s otherworldly.

I get chills sometimes thinking about how all of the pieces, poetry, fiction, and elsewise that I read are somehow derivative of somebody’s personal experience– even more so when I, often times a stranger, find myself in their work. With Élan being written by kids my age, sometimes when I read it, I think about how there is a chance that I could be friends with this person or know them outside of their work and see all the ways in which they manifest within their creative work. It feels like such an untouchable thought sometimes, because when I read these pieces, I am blown away each time by the amount of creative talent and intimacy that is in a world so close to me. Even more so, the amount of understanding and closeness I feel to strangers in another universe, might not end up being strangers.

Evette Davis, Senior Web Editor